Put down that doughnut, Einstein.
Researchers at Oregon State University say a diet high in fat and sugar leads to diminished “cognitive flexibility,” or the ability to adapt in changing situations.
Translation: That midnight sleeve of Oreos is making you dumber.
The study, published in Neuroscience, involved testing lab mice that were given foods of varying fat and sugar content.
During four weeks of these varied diets, the mice were subjected to a series of puzzles and mazes.
The researchers found a clear connection between varying levels of "gut bacteria" in each mouse's system and its cognitive ability to complete each test.
For those unfamiliar, gut bacteria -- aka gut flora -- are good for you.
Aside from helping to digest food, gut bacteria help brain function.
This is one of the reasons making foods high in probiotics part of your diet is a good idea; they increase gut bacteria numbers.
On the other hand, fatty and sugary foods mess with probiotic levels and, according to the Oregon State University study, that leads to a weakened ability to adapt in changing environments.
Kathy Magnusson, a professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute, said,
Bacteria can release compounds that act as neurotransmitters, stimulate sensory nerves or the immune system, and affect a wide range of biological functions... This work suggests that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that's one of the reasons those foods aren't good for you.
This is not the first study dealing with probiotics and their relationship to brain function.
So the next time you want to chow down on snack food, maybe try going with your gut and not against it.