What a bad diet does to your brain in just three days

You probably know what junk food does to your body…

You develop a belly bulge. Your hips and butt get too big for your favorite jeans. Your face gets plumper. Your skin and hair get duller. You battle new breakouts daily.

These changes may bother you… or they may not… depending on how much you worry about your appearance. But either way, there’s something you need to know…

What a junk food diet does to your brain is far more alarming than what it does to your physical appearance.

Long before you need to go up a size in jeans, a high-carb, high-fat diet is making serious, hard-to-reverse changes to your brain.

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Three days of fast food triggers brain inflammation

A new study from researchers at Yale shows that a high-carb, high-fat diet makes alarming changes to the brain in just three days.

In the study, researchers fed mice a high-fat, high-carb diet and saw signs of brain inflammation quickly…

Inflammation showed up in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that releases hormones, regulates body temperature, manages emotions and plays a role in sex drive. Oh yeah, it also controls body weight homeostasis, metabolism, and appetite.

Now, the fact that your hypothalamus plays a part in your metabolism, appetite and the stability of your body weight was not lost on researchers. It’s pretty good evidence that eating junk food sets you up for weight gain and obesity long before your physical appearance changes at all.

That means, the second you make those McDonald’s drive-thru runs a regular habit, your brain starts changing. These changes make you want to order an extra-large fry and a shake instead of a small fry and water, sending you deeper down the junk food rabbit hole.

But there’s an even more dangerous potential outcome here than obesity…

Researchers noticed that a high-carb, high-fat diet impacted microglial cells (immune cells in your central nervous system). In fact, the diet triggered brain inflammation by activating these cells. The scary thing is, many brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s, are associated with changes to microglial cells. That may explain why Alzheimer’s risk is higher in people who are obese.

Start taking junk food binges seriously

So that decision to throw caution to the wind and eat junk food for a week while you’re on vacation or just because it’s the weekend could have more serious consequences than you realize at the time.

It could trigger changes in your brain that make it hard to go back to your old way of eating. Worse, it could even send you down a slippery slope toward obesity and brain disease.

Next time you’re tempted to hit up the Taco Bell drive-thru after a stressful day, muster up some willpower and buy a prepackaged salad from the grocery store instead. It’s just as quick and easy but far less risky.

If you’re having trouble bouncing back from a junk food binge (don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there), you may want to try these 6 steps to snap your junk food addiction.

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  1. High-fat, high-carbohydrate diets affect your brain, not just your physical appearance — MedicalXpress
  2. Microglial UCP2 Mediates Inflammation and Obesity Induced by High-Fat FeedingCell Metabolism
  3. Hypothalamus Overview — Healthline
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.