Volume 94, Issue 89

Friday, March 9, 2001


Ice T concert melts down - Poor sales, schedule conflict cited for cancellation

Car crash sends two to hospital

Bigger gut may equal smaller brain: study

StatsCan study says student debt doesn't stop schooling

Gov't considers limiting cell usage

Study identifies Net addiction

Gun violence in schools in must stop

Planet Me

Bigger gut may equal smaller brain: study

By Dan Leinwand
Gazette Staff

According to a new study, eating too much junk food can not only affect your heart and weight, but it can also have a negative impact on the cognitive functions of your brain.

Carol Greenwood, a nutritional science professor at the University of Toronto and Gordon Winocur, a psychology professor also at U of T, conducted the study using two groups of lab rats at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto.

The first group of rats were given a high-fat diet consisting of various types of junk foods similar to those consumed by humans, confirmed Kelly Connelly, media officer for Baycrest.

She added the second group were given traditional low fat lab food.

After three months, each group of rats participated in a variety of learning and memory activities. The results showed the rats on a low fat diet outperformed the rats who ate fatty foods, Greenwood said.

"Our brain needs glucose in order to function. When glucose metabolism is impeded by saturated fatty acids, it's like clogging the brain and starving it of energy," she said.

The fat rats were then injected with glucose which subsequently improved their performance on memory and concentration tasks, he said.

"We found that when the group of fat rats were injected with glucose, their cognitive function improved," Winocur said. "Most interesting was the fact that the glucose worked selectively on one part of the brain: the hippocampus."

Mark Cole, chair of the department of psychology at Huron University College, explained the hippocampus is the part of the brain largely responsible for the creation of new memories. "But [the hippocampus] is not involved with the process of storing memories," he said.

Brescia College food and nutrition student Liz Fairbairn, a volunteer who manned the meat and alternatives kiosk in the University Community Centre Atrium for the Healthy Lifestyles Fair, said she is not surprised by the idea that fatty foods affect the performance of the brain.

"Junk food gives you a quick buzz, but in half an hour, you will be tired again."

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