Is Too Much Fat and Sugar Dulling Your Brain?

pizzaUntil only recently, it may have seemed silly to say the bacteria in your digestive tract can somehow “talk” to your brain, but more and more scientists are finding evidence of such a relationship. They call it the gut-brain connection, and last month researchers at Oregon State University revealed how a poor diet can impact that connection and lead to a decline in healthy brain function.

The standard American diet (or SAD) includes high amounts of sugar and unhealthy fats, which OSU scientists say may affect our ability to process and remember information. Specifically, a high-sugar, high-fat diet impacts something called “cognitive flexibility,” which allows us to think about more than one idea at a time. Too much fat and sugar also leads to problems with memory, say researchers.

The study involved young, healthy male mice who were fed one of three different diets: a high-sugar diet, a high-fat diet, or a normal diet. Fecal samples were taken before and after to monitor the bacterial environment in the gut, and both groups underwent testing to assess physical and mental function.

Looking at the results, the research team discovered a sharp decline in mental and physical ability for those mice on the high-sugar and high-fat diets when compared with those on a normal diet. Cognitive flexibility was decreased with both groups, and those on the high-sugar diet experienced significant memory impairment. Interestingly, the fecal samples of both groups showed lower numbers of beneficial bacteria and higher numbers of harmful bacteria in the gut.

“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.” said lead author Dr. Kathy Magnusson. “It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.” Previous studies have found that similar changes in gut bacteria due to diet may trigger an unhealthy immune response in the body and promote inflammation.

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3 Ways Golf is Good for Your Health

golferIn addition to the fresh air and camaraderie, recent studies show that playing golf provides a broad range of health benefits for the whole body. From better muscle tone to mental sharpness, here are three good reasons to start working on your swing.

Let’s Get Physical
Though tamer than most popular team sports, golf is still a very physical game. Playing on a regular basis can help improve muscle tone and increase stamina, at the same time helping to maintain a healthy weight. One study found that walking all 18 holes burns about 1,400 calories (800 if you ride in a cart). Not only are all those extra steps good for your heart, but a Swedish study found that regular golfers have a 40% lower mortality rate and live about five years longer on average. A day on the course has also been linked to a more restful night’s sleep.

Stay Sharp!
Ask any golfer and he or she will tell you golf is definitely a mental game, but here’s what you may not know: playing golf triggers the release of chemicals called endorphins in the body. Endorphins are natural mood enhancers that promote positive feelings. What’s more, golf involves a high degree of attentiveness and coordination, which is good for keeping the mind sharp. It also stimulates the circulation of blood to the brain and supports healthy nerve cells.

Golf Makes for Good Company
Golf is a highly social game by nature and offers a unique opportunity for interaction and companionship. This is important because a number of studies have connected socialization to a better quality of life, especially among seniors. Meeting up with friends or family members on the course is a great way to stay connected while taking advantage of the physical and mental health benefits of the game.

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