Study: High-Fat Diets May Impact Mood

By: Jenna Savage

Just a couple of a weeks ago, a study linked diets high in fructose with impaired learning and memory. Now, new research is finding that certain diets may impact mood in additional to cognitive faculties. A recent study performed by the Universite de Montreal has provided evidence that high-fat diets may cause depression and anxiety, PsychCentral reports.

During the study, researchers gathered mice that were prone to obesity, and separated them into two groups. One group was fed a diet high in saturated fat, while the other was kept on a low-fat diet. The mice followed these diet plans for 12 weeks, after which they were put through behavioral testing to measure how they would react in new environments.

According to the study, the mice fed the high-fat diet were less active when compared to the mice fed the low-fat diet. They did very little exploring of new areas, instead avoiding open spaces. Meanwhile, the mice kept on a low-fat diet were less inhibited in their exploration.

The mice were also tested in a glass cylinder filled with water. Their reactions to being stuck in the water helped researchers determine their “behavioral despair.” The mice that were fed the high-fat diet gave up on trying to get out of the water, and were described as feeling a sense of helplessness. The mice fed low-fat diets tried to escape more frequently, and did not give up as easily.

In addition to measuring behavior through tests, researchers also looked at the rodents’ brains. They found that the mice who had been eating the high-fat diet had more corticosterone – a stress hormone – than mice on the low-fat diet. The emotion and reward areas of their brains seemed to react differently than those areas in the brains of the mice on low-fat diets as well.

Researchers also looked at mice that were fed “good” fats, like olive oil, and reported that these mice had less anxiety.

This isn’t the first test of high-fat diets in mice. Previous studies have results that differ from the Universite de Montreal’s research, describing the rodents’ behavior as more docile than anxious when on a high-fat diet. However, it’s clear that diet does impact mood to some degree.

But it is also important to note that our brains aren’t the only parts of our bodies affected by our diets. High-fat and high-sugar diets can lead to diabetes, heart conditions, and other health problems. Cutting down on fat and sugar has the potential to make us feel better both mentally and physically.