08 July 2015

Does the intestinal microflora make the gluttons weak and stupid?

Fatty and sweet foods affect mental abilities through microflora 


This effect is especially pronounced in the case of excessive amounts of sweets in the diet: violations are observed in both long-term and short-term memory. The observations of scientists from Oregon are consistent with previous studies on the effect of fatty and sweet foods on cognitive abilities and behavior, suggesting that it may be associated with changes at the level of the microbiome, the aggregate of the inhabitants of the digestive system – about 100 trillion microorganisms. 

Magnusson's group worked with laboratory mice that were fed differently and subjected to various cognitive tests, such as walking through a water maze, while tracking the microbial composition in the digestive tract of rodents. The results of this study are published in the journal Neuroscience (Relationships between diet-related changes in the gut microbiome and cognitive flexibility – VM). 

"It is becoming increasingly obvious that our gut bacteria, or microbiota, can communicate with our brain," notes Kathy Magnusson in a press release from the University of Oregon (Fat, sugar cause bacterial changes that may relate to loss of cognitive function – VM). "Bacteria can secrete substances that act as neurotransmitters, stimulating sensory nerves or the immune system, thus affecting many biological functions," she explains. "We can't say with certainty what kind of messages they send, but we track their path and the impact they have," the researcher added. Mice are considered a suitable model for research, the results of which are significant for humans in such aspects as, for example, aging, spatial memory and obesity.

In the work of the Oregon authors, it turned out that after four weeks of keeping mice on both a high-fat and high-sugar diet, the indicators of rodents when performing mental and physical tasks began to drop noticeably compared to their counterparts eating as usual. Changes in cognitive plasticity were particularly pronounced. If the experimental mice were blocked from the usual path in the maze, they found it harder and harder to find a new one. The studies were carried out on young animals, whose bodies usually resist pathogenic influences mediated by microbiota better.

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