The new health concern: are you shrinking your brain?

A poor diet can do more damage than causing you to pack on a few kilos. It can quite literally shrink your brain.

So says a new study, which claims that the consumption of junk food – something that I, ahem, occasionally partake in – can actually be linked to smaller brains as we age.

If this turns out to be true across the board, then there’s a good chance I’m going to exit my time on earth leaving behind a tiny pee-sized brain.


It’s not that I survive off hot chips and sugar-coated donuts, exactly. But I don’t subsist on a diet of leafy kale salads and quinoa porridge, either.

I aim to live by the 80/20 rule (80 per cent good stuff, 20 per cent ‘treats’) but sometimes that balance gets a little skewed.

So when I read about this study – which has found that an unhealthy diet can impact the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is “absolutely central to learning and memory,” according to Associate Professor Felice Jacka from Deakin University – my first thought was: Seriously?!

This is just what I need! Yet another reason to feel guilty when I reach for a tim tam instead of a green smoothie…

The study’s findings are proof that a bad diet can lead to both mental and physical problems, Jacka says.

“Basically, your hippocampus gets smaller as you age, and the difference we found between people with good diets and people with poor diets in terms of their left hippocampal volume [is that] it counted for about 60 per cent of that aged-related decline,” Jacka says.

The worst thing is that now this information has been brought to my attention, I can’t just ignore it. Can I?

The age of information that we live in means we have access to all manner of studies and data and research and they all continue to provide evidence of just how many ways we are failing to embrace ‘optimal health’.

It would be so much easier if eating ‘clean’ were delicious. Don’t get me wrong – I love salads, start every day with a banana and eat vegies every day.

But nothing is quite as delicious as starting the day with a cup of tea and hot buttered toast. I’m not quite prepared to give that up, so I guess I’ll have to deal with the mini-brain consequences.

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