What are we putting into our brain? by DW Documentary

It’s impossible to avoid them for decades we’ve been surrounded by sweet and fatty foods and the body has not been dealing well with these eating habits [Music] but what about the brain do our mental health our moves and our brain abilities suffer from the wrong kind of nutrition we know that junk food is making us fat but science is telling us now that it might also be shrinking our brains brain researchers have joined the dining-table to study the effects of our eating habits diets that are high in fat and sugar in the long-term lead to changes in part of the brain involved in memory this is a recent field of research a developing science that spotlights a new facet of nutrition habitual intake of foods high in fat and sugar results in a reprogramming to the brain in short our brain is affected by what’s on our place [Music] it all starts with our very first meals even before birth the brain is built up during pregnancy powered functions later on depends on how it has been nourished by the expectant mothers diet over nine months a number of consequences of poor nutrition during gestation have been known for a long time today scientists in Australia are looking at the repercussions of nutrition on brain function release checker a professor at the University of Melbourne examined the behavior of babies after following the eating habits of 23,000 pregnant women we measured their intake of junk and processed foods we measured their intake of the healthful foods foods with lots of fiber and nutrients etc and then we looked at the emotional health of their children over the first few years of life from eighteen months to five years of course taking into account things such as education income the mother’s mental health parenting practices these sorts of things and what we saw very clearly was that mothers who ate more junk and processed foods so sweet drinks and salty snacks and you know takes biscuits during their pregnancy their children had more of these behaviors such as aggression and anger and tantrums this disquieting correlation suggests that the mother’s diet impacts the mental development of the baby though the link remains to be demonstrated on the biological level in any case release Chaka is convinced so what we also saw in this large Norwegian studies that the children’s diets seemed to be important as well independent of what mum ate if children were eating too much junk and processed foods and or not enough of the healthful foods they had more of these anger and aggressive type behaviors but also sadness anxiety worry nightmares since then professor jackers conclusions have been confirmed by studies in Spain the Netherlands and Canada excess fat and sugar are now in the sites of scientists working on the brain excesses and deficiencies junk food is often low on essential nutrients so it leaves the body and especially the nerve cells lacking [Music] in this laboratory at the University of Bordeaux scientists are studying the consequences of dietary deficiencies on Mouse brains [Music] this experiment is used to measure anxiety the animal has the choice between exploring the lighted area or hiding in the shade a normal Mouse takes the time to examine the lighted area but this animal was deprived of omega-3 fatty acids during its development omega-3s are called good fats due to their benefits to the heart and arteries instead of exploring the environment the mouse takes refuge in a dark corner it’s stressed anxious the experiment has been reproduced many times on dozens of mice for researchers this strange behavior can be simply explained without omega-3 fatty acids the brain does not develop and function normally they’re needed because the brains gray matter is 90% fat which it cannot produce itself the brain is the organ after adipose tissue that’s the richest in polyunsaturated fatty acid or omega-3 so Omega 3 is indispensable because the body cannot make it we have to ingest it it has to come from the diet oily fish organ meat vegetable oils and seeds and nuts such as almonds have long been the main sources of omega-3 for humans but these foods have become scarce in the cuisine of industrialized countries the amount of omega-3 that enters the brain is crucial for making brain cells more efficient because when these fatty acids are incorporated into the membranes of nerve cells they improve their electrical properties in omega-3 rich neurons the signals propagate faster the network is more efficient depriving the brain of omega-3 is linked to a risk that it will function less well the general population is deficient in omega-3 we have insufficient intake of omega-3 so it’s important to pay attention to it especially in the prenatal developmental period during this period omega-3 embeds itself in massive quantities into the brain also in adolescence when there’s often a change of food and during aging where the incorporation into the brain of omega 3 tends to be less effective so we must increase its intake [Music] the first rule for a brain to run at full speed is avoid deficiencies but good nutrients send a varied diet should be available what happens to neurons when meals are poor and above all always the same that is a problem that is now affecting the wild living European hamster which thrived for a long time in the plains of France’s Isis region [Music] it’s least the 1960s there’s been a decline in the hamster population which is on the verge of extinction today and at the same time we’ve noticed an increase in the agricultural area where corn is cultivated cow aleena Boyd wondered whether the collapse of the population was linked to the sudden glut of corn so if she did an experiment feeding hamster is exclusively corn [Music] wellnot salvia during greeting we observed behavioral disturbances and females which resulted in hyper aggression and hypersensitivity as soon as there was noise in the room yes above all what we did not expect is that these females would devour their young the first day after birth this behavior was observed in more than 80% of females a dietary deficiency was enough to make a hamster devour its children the cause a simple vitamin a vitamin b3 deficiency is at the origin of the abnormal behavior when we supplemented them with vitamin b3 in addition to their corn based diet they expressed quite normal behaviors and they began to nurse their young to raise them in the same way as the females that were fed a diversified diet [Music] the case of the cannibalistic hamsters is disturbing could an unbalanced diet also trigger aggressive violent behavior in humans up surberg is a clinical psychologist and political adviser to the Dutch Ministry of Justice his specialty nutrition and crime he’s convinced that enriching food with vitamins fatty acids and minerals can reduce aggression it’s a hypothesis that is difficult to test in normal life because so many factors and circumstances can influence our behavior and our impulses in order to study nutrition without the influence of the many parameters he chose prisons as a nearly ideal setting in Natal on that woman here in the Netherlands we conducted a study of young prisoners in 8 different prisons for three months we get them vitamins and minerals and fatty acid supplements and then we looked at the effect on their behavior we measured it in two different ways first we asked the detainees how aggressive they were and we asked the supervisors for their views on the issue above all we looked at the incident log the number of times detainees were punished and we saw that solitary confinement had fallen dramatically the first link off the normal [Music] in the group of inmates whose meals were improved the number of incidents was reduced by 1/3 what we eat may have the power to change our moods to stimulate certain impulses but could the food on our plate also influence our decisions the ones we believe we make using our free will when people are asked if they think that the food that they eat has an impact on health most answer yes but when asked if diet can also influence thoughts and decisions very few people are willing to believe this is the case fear a lot in it Forsch then however at the Institute of psychology of the University of Lubeck in Germany professor Soyoung Park has for the first time proven it her work reveals the mechanism by which food could influence our thoughts and for that the researcher has developed a rather original experiment imagine that you face the following dilemma the money on the table is to be divided into two sums but it’s your partner a stranger who decides how it is to be distributed I’ll give you to yours and I keep it for me if you accept the unfair offer you leave with a little money but much less than your partners if you refuse no one wins anything so what would you do do you accept the offer and take the two euros even if you feel cheated or do you refuse and leave with empty pockets but your head held high well it turns out surprisingly that whether you’ll take the money or not depends on what you’ve just eaten as part of this study we follow 24 people who came into the laboratory twice to have two different breakfasts we found that the same person made completely different decisions based on what they ate in the morning to the test person the two breakfasts look the same in reality one is far more protein rich than the other the ratio of protein to sugar is the only parameter that changes a few hours after the meal the subject takes several tests on a computer today he accepts the offer his self-interest outweighs his anger at the unfairness and he will leave with the little money in his pocket last week he mainly refused and won almost nothing [Music] aunt Wendy poppin the subject having consumed a high-protein breakfast in the morning was tolerant of unfair offers tol ohonta of an unfairness and aboot via get conversely the subject who consumed a high carbohydrate breakfast was less tolerant in the face of unfair offers yet on average the subjects who had little protein rejected unfair offers with twice as often but how can this surprising result be explained in their search for biological evidence for this observation the scientists carried out blood tests we will send the blood to laboratory for analysis we will measure the level of hormones and amino acids in the blood I mean for hormones we are interested in insulin cortisol adrenaline an adrenocorticotropic hormone and four amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine tryptophan chosing of these substances the most important is tyrosine the amino acid is one building block of a protein that is key to brain function dopamine this molecule ensures communication between neurons involved in motivation and risk-taking the results of the blood analysis show that subjects with higher levels of tyrosine in their blood are more willing to accept the unfair offer in other words what we eat can within hours subtly alter the chemistry of the brain and thus the communication between the neurons enough to guide some of our decisions experiments are continuing in Lubec to confirm this result the implications are wide-ranging since we eat three times a day every day we realize that food has immense power that of modifying and shaping mankind so it’s essential to think about how we can use food to promote our well-being and optimize our mental state of Tinian not only does an unbalanced diet affect our brain functions and behavior and our meal plan interfere with daily decisions it also becomes increasingly clear that diet plays a decisive role in our mood and possibly mental health [Music] but what about junk food dripping with sugar and bad fats what would happen if we ate more of that [Music] this is the focus of research here in Australia at the University of Sydney [Music] margarett Morris runs a laboratory where rats are fed the kind of junk food that you find in supermarkets or cheap fast-food restaurants [Music] our experiments use a range of Western foods of the type eaten by all of us so we feed our rats meat pies chips cakes and biscuits the sorts of foods that are readily available and cheap so we are modeling the Western world the first consequence of this diet the rat doubles its food rations the animal never seems see ciated but that’s not the most surprising outcome what about chief interests is the impact of this diet on the animals memory and we can measure this easily in the rat using a task known as the novel object and novel place tasks in this test the researcher places objects in the rats cage the animal comes over immediately to examine them rodents are very curious by Nature once it’s completed its examination and memorized its surroundings it’s temporarily removed we then place the animal in the arena with one object that’s been shifted [Music] on its return the rat spends more time examining the object that has changed places because it already knows the other objects they’re engraved in its memories the rats stuffed full of bad foods behave differently what we observe is the animals eating a high-fat diet or a high sugar diet or the combined high-fat high-sugar foods were less able to recognize to remember that that object had moved they explored the two objects about the same that shows an impairment with their spatial memory the overfed rats have not only damaged spatial memory but also other malfunctions that sound a warning signal for the scientists they point to damages in the hippocampus a small region nestled in the center of the brain it’s essential for learning and the consolidation of memory [Music] recent studies show that in humans a two energy-rich diet also interferes with the hippocampus we see for example that the quality of people’s diets is related to the size of their hippocampus to the size of their gray and white matter volume and they’re starting to be intervention studies so for example we see that only four days on junk food type diet will have an impact on cognitive functions that are related to the hippocampus Margaret Morris is now seeking to understand how sugary and fatty foods disrupt the brain of her rats to the point of affecting their performance she has a hypothesis namely eating too much fat and sugar triggers an inflammatory reaction that spreads to the neurons so in response to these foods there’s a general inflammatory response all around the body this has been well described in obesity but it now appears to be quite an acute response as well and what we find is that inflammatory molecules such as cytokines so increased in response to the diet an overly rich diet confuses the immune system [Music] it responds by triggering an inflammatory reaction especially in fatty tissues our fat masses release substances that then propagate this inflammation throughout the body neurons were thought to be spared this effect behind the protective blood-brain barrier the semi permeable membrane that separates the circulating blood vessels from the brain so there’s increased inflammation in the whole of the body and we think that this may spread to the brain that’s because the blood-brain barrier which normally protects the brain from inflammatory molecules may be impaired in fact by the diet and become leaky allowing traffic of molecules into the brain the inflammation infiltrates the meninges and then triggers a surprising phenomenon in her laboratory sofala has shown in her overfed mice that certain immune cells in the brain the microglial cells begin to devour neurons these microbial cells within the brain are important because they can eat dead neurons but when they’re deregulated especially in a situation of unbalanced nutrition they start to eat neurons that are alive therefore by consuming these neurons in excessive numbers eventually they will destroy or participate in the destruction of neural networks that includes neurons that are alive and it should be functional this reaction of the microglial cells could be filmed in vitro the images show how energetically they move the red objects are fragments of neurons that they ingest in an obese Mouse the activity becomes frenetic this phenomenon is suspected of significantly affecting the functioning of the brain we’ve been saying to people for 30 years don’t eat these foods you might have a heart attack you might get cancer and diabetes it hasn’t worked to change people’s behavior we hope that if people understand that what they put in their mouth is actually really essential to the health of their brain and that of the children that might have a more profound impact on people’s dietary choices microscope micro manipulator and ultra sensitive recorder savvy Ottoman tea is at the helm of an apparatus that can record the electrical activity of a single neuron the principle is simple a slice of mouse brain is immersed in a liquid that keeps it alive the researcher approaches it carefully with an electrode it’s a meticulous operation here I go down the pipette in the slicer brain and now we will approach this recording pipette near the neuron to make contact that’s it we made contact and now we will be able to measure the electrical activity of the neuronal activity electrically norm upward Peaks that we see are potential areas for action inform us this is how neurons encode information the time that elapses between the peaks is the message sent by the neuron now we will increase the glucose concentration in the bath and we will see if this cell responds to increase in concentration of glucose as it can be seen here this cell responds to the increase with more electrical activity there is more potential for action than what could be seen here before the increasing glucose concentration the signal comes from a single cell but in the brain the neurons are all connected to each other that makes the scientists suspect that glucose has the ability to modify the activity of entire brain areas that control the motions and pleasure is this how sugar ensures its grip on our will this is for the moment only a hypothesis but today sugar addiction is the subject of intense research in laboratories and what appears more and more clear is that the power of sugar is similar to that of a drug Serg odd match is one of the first to provide proof with a very simple experiment step 1 he raised rats giving them cocaine and sugar then after weeks of this diet he presented the animals with a choice [Music] McClendon’s of all Estoril we have the situation in which the animal has the choice between a lever that is connected to a syringe that contains a drug solution and the drug in question is a hard drug like cocaine and heroin and on the left a lever allows him to control a syringe that contains a sweet drink and there we see the animal chooses to take the sweet drink the rats selected the sugar-water four times more often than the drugs it can’t be called the glucose overdose but the irrepressible desire is plain to see Roxette expels so this experiment simply shows that sugar it has more addictive potential than we had imagined and it is perhaps even stronger than the pull of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin [Music] today we live in a food environment that’s a little crazy we find sugar in a lot of foods as we would expect in sugary drinks but we also find sugar in foods that are not meant to be sweet such as ham or soup we could cite other examples but it’s adding sugar to these foods that contributes to the fact that we make people addicted to it without them knowing it [Music] here at the Oregon Research Institute the influence of sweet food on the human brain is being investigated [Music] what this program of research has revealed is that habitual consumption of energy dense food alters your neural circuitry in exactly the same way of consumption of drugs of abuse Eric’s dice recruited about a hundred students half of whom regularly eat ice cream while the others never eat it they all came to the laboratory to drink a milkshake inside an MRI device and give the researchers a peek into their brain activity craig casey so what we’re going to do today is give you chocolate milkshake and record the brain activity in your entire brain as you receive and anticipate receiving chocolate milkshake to look at the neural basis of consuming energy dense foods the test subjects can sip the milkshake through the tubes without moving their heads what we found out is that the people who never eat ice cream you could trace the reward circuitry everything lit up just beautifully and it activated things very strongly but in contrast to people who ate ice cream every day showed a very diminished response there was hardly any activation whatsoever illustrating that regular intake of energy dense foods really reduces the pleasure you experience when you consume those foods the reward circuit is a region of the brain that controls the feeling of pleasure it is particularly responsive to sugar consumption but eating too much ends up weakening its responsiveness so that at the same dose the sensations of pleasure are ultimately reduced and Eric’s Tice’s experiment reveals another more subtle perhaps more pernicious effect after a diet too rich in sugar the brain becomes hypersensitive to images of food the more and more you eat ice-cream the less and less the reward circuitry is recruited when you consume ice-cream but the more your reward circuitry is activated when you see queues that say you might get ice cream so you’re brought your reward circuitry fires up when you see an ice cream store as you’re driving down the street or you see a commercial for ice cream on the television and the reward circuitry activates much more for people who eat ice cream all the time than it does for people who don’t and that prompts eating in the absence of hunger that drives obesity and weight gain this direct influence of food on our brain plays a crucial role in what we choose to eat each day what happens in the brain at the moment we pick a dessert rather than an appetizer or fish rather than red meat who is really pulling the strings Carlos Ribeiro and his team are leading researchers on food choices what we really want is to find all the components all the genes the molecules the neurons which direct feeding decisions and for that we have to be able to look at very fine and small effect the simplicity of this animal model the fly makes it possible to explore new avenues and new hypotheses to understand the feeding havior of the fly Carlos Ribeiro has developed a machine that monitors the insects choices in great detail when it’s touching the food which is in the other electrode with its tongue the proboscis then we can measure that with the sensor here which is the same sensor which you use on your iPad and your iPhone to detect touch on the screen just that here we don’t detect the touch on the screen for the touch of the food and so we can really now dissect and analyze the choice of the fly sheets protein or sugar but also when she’s eating from the different foods how it eats how much it eats how fast it is how often it needs and really dissect all the details of the decisions which are controlled by the brain thanks to this technique he’s been able to prove that the main reason for choosing food is first of all deficiencies naturally flies that lack protein will choose protein rich food but looking more closely Ribeiro observed that this is not always the case sometimes actually we had some flies which didn’t have this strong urge to eat protein and then we were wondering why that was the case right and so when we looked at it turned out that the flies which had no craving for protein had got microbes and so following up on many experiments we could show that there are two specific gut microbes which when they are in the fly they suppress protein for a protein appetite and therefore these two microbes have a very important influence on protein cravings influence flies when choosing their diet are influenced by the bacteria in their gut this unexpected discovery raises an important question does the human intestinal flora called the microbiome also act on our brains do our gut bacteria play a role in our food preferences at the University College Cork in Ireland John Kryon does pioneering research on the microbiome he’s been able to prove that gut bacteria can influence certain behaviors in animals as well [Music] when you take microbes from highly anxious mice and Transplant them to normal anxious mice they become much more anxious and vice-versa that even when you take them from normal you can normalize the stress response in the anxiety scientists now even consider the microbiome to be a kind of intermediary a link between food and the brain the main factor that influences the composition of these microbes is the food we take diet and the diversity of the diet is really important from the moment we’re born until we die in shaping the composition of the microbes and so we’re beginning to realize the importance that what we eat has on what’s the in our microbes and how that’s influencing what’s going on in our brain our well-being depends in one way or another on our microbiome a diet that is good for our mood is first and foremost a diet that is suitable for the bacteria in our intestines this has led to the idea of using food to pamper the brain and maintain mental health and it is the famous Mediterranean diet but as the scientists excited the traditional Mediterranean diet is really high in a diverse range of plant foods so lots of different leafy greens and different colored vegetables but also fruits very importantly legumes so this is your beans and lentils and chickpeas nuts nuts and seeds fish and of course olive oil olive oil is a very important component of the Mediterranean diet and we think that that diversity leads to more diversity in the gut microbiota the microbiota that live in our gut and that diversity in the gut has been linked to good health outcomes we run the first study last year where we recruited 67 people with major depression they reseed diet tree support with a clinical dietitian now over a three-month period this trial took place and at the end of that when we measured their depression again we saw that the degree of change in their diet correlated with the degree of change in their depression so the more they move towards a Mediterranean diet the more their depression improved using diet to serve the brain it’s an idea that’s catching on scientists are now exploring all kinds of clues spices used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine are now being studied in labs for their benefits for mental health red fruits and berries have awakened high expectations the polyphenols they contain might be able to rejuvenate neurons on the decline our red fruits and spices the miracle ingredients for eternally young neurons it’s still too early to say for sure researchers are only just beginning to uncover the secrets of the remarkable relationship between nutrition and the brain [Music] the ideal menu for our little gray cells is still largely unknown but a balanced diverse diet which does without processed food and sugar and favors fruits and vegetables seems so far to be the best recipe for preserving the mental faculties my grandmother said you are what you eat so eat well and what we’re realizing now is that science is beginning to understand how true she was the quarter oak light apple if we limited the deficiencies would that reduce crime too early to say what we do know is that when you bet on healthy eating it has effects on behavior the more we overeat Snickers borrowers we become hyper-vigilant to snicker cues and then we eat a lot of Snickers and we create that monster in our cells so the best thing to do if you have kids is feed them healthy foods and not get them used to eating this kind of crap I can’t believe I just said crap sorry.

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