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High-fat diet can result in cognitive decline

A high fat diet can stimulate our immune cells to interfere with the connections between our neurones in our brain, known as synapses. This is the result of a study, originating in Georgia, USA that found that obesity causes chronic inflammation which in turn causes cells, known as microglia, in the brain to initiate an autoimmune response. Microglia are phagocytic cells that help the body’s immune system by fighting infectious agents in the brain but also are involved in the normal process of ‘synaptic stripping’. However in obesity they become activated and start to destroy the synapses instead. This study was conducted in two groups of mice that were given foods to mimic what a healthy diet and a fast food diet is like for humans. They found that after consuming a high fat diet, the mice recorded a lower level of activity in their hippocampus, the centre of learning and memory, which was due to the loss in synapses.

Thankfully, a low-fat diet of two months has been shown to reverse the effects of the autoimmune response, in mice. This brings hope not only to obesity sufferers but also to those with autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis as they are gaining more of an understanding of the impact of the inflammatory process on cells such as the microglia.

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