A High-Fat Diet May Alter Your Behavior and Your Brain with Changed Gut Bacteria

First Posted: Mar 27, 2015 05:14 AM EDT

High-fat diets may not just impact your health. It could also alter your behavior and your brain. Scientists have discovered that high-fat diets could increase the risk for depression and other psychiatric disorders.

The human microbiome, which can be found largely in your gut, consists of trillions of microorganisms. These microbiota are essential for normal physiological functioning. However, new research has suggested that alterations in the microbiome may underlie a person's susceptibility to illness, including neuropsychiatric impairment.

In order to learn a bit more about how the microbiome affects an individual, the researchers fed non-obese adult mice a normal diet. However, these mice received a transplant of gut microbiota from donor mice that had been fed either a high-fat diet or a control diet. The researchers then evaluated the mice for changes in behavior and cognition.

The mice that received the microbiota shaped by a high-fat diet had multiple disruptions in behavior, including increased anxiety, impaired memory and repetitive behaviors. In addition, there were many detrimental effects in the body, including increased intestinal permeability and markers of inflammation. There were also signs of inflammation in the brain.

The findings provide evidence that diet-induced changes to the gut microbiome may alter brain function even in the absence of obesity. That said, further research is necessary. However, this study does show that the gut microbiome has a huge effect on people's health, and could mean that the microbiome could be a therapeutic target for neuropsychiatric disorders in the future.

The findings are published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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