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Study: Junk Food Abuse May Lead To Memory Impairment

Too much junk food in your teens may cause memory damage. A study from the University of Southern California (USC) found memory deficits – albeit in ‘teen’ rats – that last into adulthood. And that bodes ill for kids trying to learn…

Recipe for Obese Kids - ©

The study, published this month at, found strong evidence that adolescent rats fed a high-suger and high-fat diet developed memnory deficits. Moreover, the impairments often lasted into adulthood – proved chronic – if the subjects’ diet  were not addressed in the teens.

What they wanted to find out

An abstract of the study report explains: “[Dr.] Scott Kanoski and Lead Author, postdoctoral research fellow Anna Hayes [saw] that prior research has shown a link between poor diet and Alzheimer’s disease. […] People who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease tend to have lower levels of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in the brain that is essential for memory and functions such as learning, attention, arousal and involuntary muscle movement.”

The team wondered what this could mean for younger people. Especially teens, whose brains are undergoing rapid development, and soaking up a lot of knowledge in just a crucial few years.

What they did

“The researchers tracked the acetylcholine levels of a group of rats on a fatty, sugary diet and in a control group of rats by analyzing their brain responses to certain tasks designed to test their memory. The team examined the rats’ brains post-mortem for signs of disrupted acetylcholine levels.”

A simple model, but one that would yield important results.

What they found

The team found profound impairment in rats on the sugar-fat diet. Blood tests confirmed that their acetylcholine levels were low. And the acetylcholine deficit in childhood and adolescence appeared to cause permanent memory impairment.

““I don’t know how to say this without sounding like Cassandra and doom and gloom,” Kanoski said, “but unfortunately, some things that may be more easily reversible during adulthood are less reversible when they are occurring during childhood.”

The takeaway

I often remind readers that mic and rats are used in early-stage research on issues that affect humans. That’s because they’re mammals and share with us many critical features and functions. And scientists have long known that, if a theory is proven in rats, it’s very likely to be true for humans, as wel. Hence, further testing..

And that’s one of the main takeaways from the USC study.

Moreover, it appears that parents of teens who eat junk food need to know that they should pay special attention the kids. And make sure they get eat healthy…

My take

This is the clearest, most convincing evidence yet, that eating too much junk food – stuff full of Fat, salt and sugar – is directly detrimental to a young person’s development. What’s frightening is, the effects, can last into adulthood – impairing a person for the rest of their life – if not addressed in the early years.

This is a story that isn’t getting enough exposure in the mainstream media. And it needs to be bumped to the top of the story roster. Alas, there are so many wars, shootings and corruption trials these days that really important health and social issues like junk food dangers get pushed down the ladder, out of sight.

We can all do our part by talking about this issue, and informing parents and kids. While they still have time to avoid the damage.

~ Maggie J.