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Are We Eating Ourselves Dumb?

"Learning" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by CollegeDegrees360
“Learning” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by CollegeDegrees360

A diet high in saturated fat and sugar causes reduced memory and cognitive function. That means people who eat the typical American diet are at risk for reduced learning, and a reduced ability to store and use what they do learn.1

Next time you’re in the check-out line at the grocery store take a look at what people are buying. Most of the time you’ll see carts filled with breads, snack foods, cereals, deli meats and other types of meat, dairy products, carbonated beverages and other drinks, frozen foods, prepared foods, and very few vegetables or fruit. Our perception of food is distorted and this has caused a culture of dietary deficiency. This typical Western diet is deficient in Omega-3’s while also being too high in added sugars.

Dietary Changes Can Increase Brain Power

We need the right fats, sugars and carbs in the right relationship, but instead we’re getting the wrong kinds in unbalanced proportions. This has an effect on the brain causing reduced plasticity: that means the brain can’t change as easily. The synapses between neurons become impaired so our ability to process, store and use information is reduced.

Just two changes in the diet would go a long to restore brain function:

  • Eat more Omega 3 fats
  • Consume less or no fructose

80% of all sugar you see on food labels contain fructose. If it’s added sugar (not naturally occurring), you can assume that it contains fructose. All added sugars ae problematic when consumed in large quantities, but they become even more troublesome when combined with an unbalanced fat ratio. The typical American diet is too high in Omega 6’s and too low in Omega 3’s.

Failing Grades and Alzheimer’s?

Could this be the cause for the USA ranking lower than many other countries in student assessment tests?2   Could these dietary imbalances be contributing to the rise in Alzheimer’s disease?3   The more important question to ask is; Would eating a more nutrient rich diet with increased Omega 3’s and decreased fructose benefit student performance and decrease risk for dementia?  It certainly couldn’t hurt to give it a try!

What is known as the typical American diet is composed of a lot of processed foods, which are high in the types of fat, sugar, and carbs that lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The precursor to these diseases may be called Metabolic Syndrome or pre-diabetes, but regardless of what you call it they are the result of diet and lifestyle factors. We already know that changing these diet and lifestyle factors is both preventative and restorative for these diseases. There is a good chance that while we fight the obesity epidemic and strive to improve the food culture in America we will eventually find our student test scores improving and our elderly experiencing better quality of life as well.


2 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22473784

U.S. students improving – slowly – in math and science, but still lagging internationally