Are high-fat diets to blame for ADHD and learning disabilities
Effect is so profound that eating lots of fatty food for even a WEEK can cause behavioural changes Thought that too much fat may alter how the body metabolises dopamine, a chemical responsible for mood
17:52 GMT, 26 February 2013
18:15 GMT, 26 February 2013
A high-fat diet may be linked to the hyperactivity disorder ADHD and learning disabilities, new research suggests.
The effect is so profound that eating lots of fatty food for even a week can cause behavioural changes – even before any weight gain sets in.
It's thought that too much fat may alter how the body metabolises dopamine, a chemical with a key role in regulating mood.
Eating lots of fatty food for even a week can cause behavioural changes associated with hyperactivity and learning difficulties (posed by model)
The researchers, from the University of Illinois, found that mice fed a high-fat diet (60 per cent of calories from fat) versus a low fat diet (10 per cent) behaved very differently. A typical Western diet contains between 35 and 45 per cent fat.
'We found that a high-fat diet rapidly
affected dopamine metabolism in the brains of juvenile mice, triggering
anxious behaviors and learning deficiencies,' said Gregory Freund, a professor in the university’s Division of
It's thought a high-fat diet alters how the body metabolises dopamine, a chemical with a key role in regulating mood
signaling in the brain is common to both ADHD and the overweight or
obese state. And an increase in the number of dopamine metabolites is
associated with anxiety behaviors in children.'
He added: 'After only one week of the high-fat
diet, even before we were able to see any weight gain, the behavior of
the mice in the first group began to change,' he said.
Evidence of anxiety included
increased burrowing and wheel running as well a reluctance to explore
The mice also developed learning and memory deficits,
including decreased ability to negotiate a maze and impaired object
But he added that when Ritalin – the drug typically prescribed to children suffering such disorders – was administered, the leaning and memory problems went away.
And switching mice from a high-fat to a low-fat diet restored memory in one week, he noted.
However the effects may be more long-lasting in children, he added. 'Although the mice grow out of
these anxious behaviors and learning deficiencies, the study suggests to
me that a high-fat diet could trigger anxiety and memory disorders in a
child who is genetically or environmentally susceptible to them.'
But abruptly removing fat from the diet might also negatively affect anxiety, learning, and memory.
The research was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.