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Junk Food: The Real Enemy of Your Brain

Junk Food: The Real Enemy of Your Brain

We all know that eating Western food model – junk food and fast-food isn’t the healthiest option we have. It’s an established fact that this kind of food damages our hearts, joints and arteries. Junk food is a food that has little nutritional value, but is high in calories, fats, sugars and salts. This greasy, fatty alternative if eaten regularly won’t help you achieve your goals of eating healthy, instead will make you fat and what you must know is that being obese, or even overweight, can damage your brains.

Not only that this kind of food will “eat” your brain physically, but the fats will generate memory problems and increased risk of dementia and will create an easy road for prematurely age the grey matter. But if you really want to stick to a healthy lifestyle then eating junk food should not be a regular occurrence. You have the willpower within you to say no. Because your goals are far too important for you to give into short-term temptations.

Facts about Junk Food


The junk food is not only the kind of food you have now in mind: pizzas, burgers, hot chicken strips. This can also include breakfast cereals, candies, chips, cookies, the well-known french fries, ice-cream, sodas and most of the sweet desserts. The term junk-food was initially used back in the 1960s, but it increased in popularity during the following decade when the song “Junk Food Junkie” reached the top of the charts in 1976.

The most important fact is that junk food is associated with obesity, heart disease (heart disease accounts for 40% of all U.S. deaths, more than all forms of cancer combined), high blood pressure, certain cancers and other diseases and disorders. What is the real problem is that 80% of food commercials aired on Saturday morning shows are with junk food, candies and obesity. And if you don’t know nowadays in the United States the candy market worths $23 bilions.

During Saturday morning cartoons, kids see about 8 junk food ads per 10 minutes of cartoons Click To Tweet

Of course, we can think that the indigestion and moodiness will pass in a few hours or days, but do you even know the long terms effects of eating this kind of food? Fats from junk food trigger the brain to want more food. This effect can last for several days. And this may be the only responsible for your behavior.

Eating processed food has the biggest rate of increased:

  • obesity
  • cancer
  • food addiction
  • indigestion
  • allergy
  • impaired brain function
  • asthma
  • ADHD
  • dyslexia

In this article we are going to focus on the main target: our brain. While you can always work off the extra pounds, you can’t give your brains and exercise regime to keep it healthy. It is very complicated when we talk about the brain health and we must take in consideration that we must rely on a diet to play an integral role in functioning of our brains.

Why is junk food affecting our brains?

Do you have a toxic brain? Is your brain getting the proper nutrients it needs to function? Since we are what we eat, it is important to understand the negative effects that processed foods and additives have on our brains. Fatty food is irresistible. Some research from the Scripps Institute in Florida suggests high-calorie foods may affect the brain in the same way as class A drugs.

These foods produce increased levels of  the chemical dopamine, which produces a sense of reward. Drugs such as cocaine and heroin also trigger a rise in dopamine levels. The theory is that both junk food and drugs overload the ‘pleasure centres’ in the brain, so achieving the same pleasure requires more stimulus. Essentially, becoming fat can cause us to develop brains that resemble a drug addict’s.

Others are less convinced about the addictive nature of junk food, however.

Being overweight can change the way we think and making us crave even more high-calories Click To Tweet

We rarely think about caring for our brains. It is there, it is an integral part of who we are, but it is not often that we think about it, much less know how to take care of it. Our brains are involved in everything we do day after day. When your brain is healthy and is working right, you are right too. But when your brain is in distressed or troubled you will have distress and trouble in your life as well.


We need to protect our brains. How do we do that? By eating right, exercising our brains, controlling the stress that can kill your brain cells and in general feeding the brains the right way through our thoughts and perceptions. You can abuse your brain, through smoking, eating foods charged with additives and chemicals, drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, drug abuse and stress or brain injuries through accidents or violent sports.

Creative thought depends upon a well nourished brain.

The brain controls the body as well as the mind. It is hard to believe, but it is estimated that there are over 100 billion neurons available to facilitate thought. Imagine then what a damaged brain must go through just to think properly.

According to a study completed by Deakin University and the Australian National University (ANU), eating junk food literally causes part of your brain to decrease in size.

Well, more specifically, junk food shrinks a very particular, important part of your brain called the left hippocampi.

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that’s responsible for:

  • learning
  • memory
  • mental health

Participants, aged between 60-64 years old back in 2001, were part of a larger, longitudinal study on aging conducted at the ANU called the Personality and Total Health Through Life Study (PATH). Researchers asked these participants to fill out surveys about their diets. Based on their answers, the participants were split into two groups: junk food eaters and healthy food eaters.

The participants consuming a ‘Westernized’ diet admitted to eating large amounts of junk food that included:

  • high sodium foods
  • sugary drinks, sodas
  • processed foods and meat
  • fatty foods

Conversely, those in the healthy foods group consumed more whole, unprocessed, and nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, veggies and fish.

The participants were given two MRI scans that were four years apart.

When the researchers analyzed the brain scans, they discovered that participants eating the most ‘Westernized’ diets (aka processed, junk food) had smaller hippocampi compared to those eating healthy foods.

The impact of diet on hippocampal volume was independent of age, sex, education, labor-force status, depressive symptoms, use of medication, physical activity, smoking, hypertension, and diabetes.

The difference in left hippocampal volume between those with a healthy diet and those with an unhealthy diet was 203 cubic millimeters, which accounted for 62% of the average decline in left hippocampal volume during the 4-year study period.

Interestingly, there were no significant associations between right hippocampal volume and dietary patterns, although there was a nonsignificant relationship.

Previous studies have shown that quality of diet is associated with depression and cognitive health. Animal research indicates that this may be mediated by changes in the hippocampus. Specifically, a high-fat diet reduces brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels, which impairs neuronal plasticity, learning, and behavior.

The good news

The good news is that you can reverse damage and realize your brain’s potential and ultimately improve your life. And remember, it doesn’t matter how brainy you are or how much education you’ve had – you can still improve and expand your mind.

How can you do this? There are a number of simple things we can do to improve and keep our brains healthy.

The brain is the greediest organ in your body, with some very specific dietary requirements. So it is hardly surprising that what you eat can affect how you think.  Researchers at Boston University found that when healthy young adults were given the drug scopolamine, which blocks acetylcholine receptors in the brain, it significantly reduced their ability to remember word pairs. Low levels of acetylcholine are also associated with Alzheimer’s disease and some studies suggest that boosting dietary intake may slow age-related memory loss.

Junk food has been implicated in quite a few serious mental disorders, from dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) to autism. Researchers at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego, California, reported that rats and mice raised on the rodent equivalent of junk food struggled to find their way around a maze, and took longer to remember solutions to problems they had already solved.

The effect of food on our brains is so powerful that research on the connection between a person’s mood and the food he or she eats has demonstrated that eating a certain food can influence a person’s mood—at least temporarily.

To keep the brain as healthy as you can follow these easy steps:

  • don’t be fooled by the salad in you sandwich; by eating most of the well-known sandwiches we will eat almost DOUBLE a man’s recommended daily fat intake.
  • any strawberry milkshake from a fast food chain contains more than 50 different chemicals. You can make one for yourself at home with only 2 ingredients…strawberries and milk.
  • next time you go to McDonalds, remember that E319 is a petroleum-based ingredient, similar to lighter fluid, used as a preservative in McDonalds French fries. Still tasty?
  • A single can of Coca Cola has 10 teaspoons of sugar in it. If you drink a can of Coca Cola every day for a month, this is equal to almost a whole bag of sugar. This sugar is not only bad for your teeth but your body turns it into fat shortly after you’ve consumed it.

What strategies do you use to avoid junk food? Have you ever think about the damage you brain suffers when you abuse it with processed food? Please let us know how you keep your brain healthy and what kind of food you use for this.


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