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High-fat diets hammer memory, more than a waistline worry

they successfully avoided one shock. One week later, they were tested for how well they retained a memory of the foot shock by continuing their training until they avoided the shock five times in six consecutive trials. The obese mice took significantly more trials than the normal-weight mice to both acquire and retain a memory of the foot shock.

The mice were also trained to press a lever in order to receive a drink of milk as reinforcement. They were trained every other day (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) for two weeks. The obese mice required significantly more trials than control mice to learn to press a lever for milk reinforcement.

"We conclude from these studies that obesity causes a decline in the ability to acquire new facts and to remember them," Morley says.

Ann-Charlotte Granholm, PhD, DDS, and her colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston explored whether a diet high in cholesterol and hydrogenated fats affected working memory in middle-aged rats (corresponding to 60 and older for humans).

The investigators gave the 16-month-old rats a diet containing 2 percent cholesterol and 10 percent hydrogenated coconut oil for eight weeks. Control rats were fed a normal fat diet containing 10 percent soybean oil.

Rats on the high-fat, high-cholesterol diet had significantly higher plasma triglycerides, total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, and low density lipoprotein cholesterol compared with controls. Weight increase and food consumption were similar between the groups. This ruled out the effects of weight gain on any effects seen in the rats on the high-fat diet.

During their final two weeks on the diet, the rats were tested in a water version of the radial arm maze, which tests the animals' working memory (for items that are changed during the test) as well as their reference memory
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Contact: Leah Ariniello
dawn@sfn.org
202-462-6688
Society for Neuroscience
24-Oct-2004


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