A diet high in sugar and fat (including cakes, chips, and biscuits) was found to negatively affect memory function after only one week, according to a new study using an animal model, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. The researchers also found similar effects of a healthy diet that included access to sugar water, which suggests that the sugar may be responsible for the negative effects.

The junk-food diet was also associated with inflammation in the hippocampal region of the brain, which is the area responsible for memory. “We know that obesity causes inflammation in the body, but we didn’t realize until recently that it also causes changes in the brain,” said Margaret Morris, PhD, lead researcher. “What is so surprising about this research is the speed with which the deterioration of the cognition [brain function] occurred.”

The memory changes appeared even before any weight changes occurred due to the diet. “We suspect that these findings may be relevant to people,” stated Morris. “While nutrition affects the brain at every age, it is critical as we get older and may be important in preventing cognitive decline.”

I have blogged many times of the effects of a high-sugar/high-carbohydrate diet on the brain and memory. This study adds to our knowledge about the very real—and very rapid—effects of too much sugar (and remember that starchy carbohydrates like breads, cereals, pastas, and potatoes turn to sugar in the body) on the brain. Instead, feed your brain with healthy fats, including plenty of brain-healthy omega-3 fish oil.