If you've had a rough day, you're probably dying to head home and rip into any junk food you can find. How good is comfort food, right? Well, unfortunately, a new study has some bad news for you.
According to research published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, eating food high in saturated fats can affect your ability to cop with stress.
Scientists from Loma Linda University in California found that the parts of the brain responsible for handling fear and stress changed as a result of the diet, mirroring the behaviours usually linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
"The teen years are a very critical time for brain maturation, including how well (or not) we'll cope with stress as adults," says Dr. Johnny Figueroa, Assistant Professor, Division of Physiology, Department of Basic Sciences and Centre for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine, Loma Linda University School of Medicine.
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"The findings of our research support that the lifestyle decisions made during adolescence -- even those as simple as your diet - can make a big difference in our ability to overcome every day challenges."
The study observed the impact of a diet high in saturated fats on the development of the areas of the brain used to respond to fear and stress. Findings suggest that during adolescence, regular consumption of an obesogenic diet lead to changes in response to fear in adult rats. Interestingly, the diet affected their learning abilities and impaired fear-startle responses while the rats that consumed the high-saturated fat diet also displayed more anxiety.
The diet also impacted the rat's ability to asses the level of threat in their surroundings while reducing the extinction of fear memories - a major impairment observed in people suffering from PTSD.
According to researchers, the results came down to the alterations in the structure of brain regions associated with PTSD, including the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.
Figueroa and his team are still unsure if the alterations in the brain structure are permanent or whether the effects can be reversed. Regardless, the findings are still significant in helping overweight adolescents who develop anxiety and stress-related disorders.
Unfortunately there isn't enough information on how the high-saturated fat diet impacts the adult brain.