An Australian first study has found that eating junk food affects the size of our brains. It compared those who regularly eat high-sodium snacks, processed meat and have sugary drinks with those on a healthier diet consisting largely of fruits, vegetables and fish. The result was those on a largely junk food diet have a smaller hippocampus which is the part of the brain responsible for memory, learning and mental health.
There are a few reasons for this. Among them, eating healthily encourages bacteria that help keep you healthy while junk foods encourage bacteria that makes you sick. The study’s author and Director of the Food and Mood Centre Felice Jacka also notes that by increasing junk food intake, we remove nutrient rich-foods that help protect the brain while increasing low-level inflammation in the body.
It’s important to heed the message as food quality can affect our brain’s health across our lifespan. While this may not be the only factor at play, Director Jacka has this to add ‘No one’s saying that eating veggies will prevent mental illness…but [our] diet is one thing we can all do something about.’