If I told you that your mind is controlled by bacteria in your gut, you’d probably wonder if I also believe Elvis is still alive and that your FitBit contains government microchips tracking your every move. Well, hold on to your tinfoil hats because two out of three of those things are 100% accurate!
Scientists have been studying the gut-brain axis for a while, the idea being that microbes in your intestines communicate with your central nervous system via your nerves, immune system, or hormones. Inevitably, your brain gets in on the conversation. A couple of recent studies are showing some pretty cool aspects to this connection. I say they’re cool because they’re aspects we can control with what we eat.
In other words, here’s your chance to take your brain back from those mean ol’ mind-stealing microbes–by avoiding junk food!
A study out of Oregon State University on mice fed a high-fat or high-sugar diet caused a shift in compounds released by gut bacteria that act like neurotransmitters (chemicals that make your brain do things). This, in turn, resulted on a decline in mental function, especially cognitive flexibility. In other words, eating junk food made it harder for the rats to adapt to new situations. The high-sugar diet was the worst culprit.
A second joint study from University of Georgia, Washington State University, and Binghamton University showed that rats fed a high-fat diet again experienced tweaked microbiota which, in turn, reorganized neural circuits and caused inflammation in the brain that altered satiety signaling, meaning that the rats stopped knowing when to stop eating.
There are a couple lessons to be learned here. First, scientists like to fatten up rodents and then slaughter them, so the next time the PhDs in the Beachbody R&D department invite me to a pizza party, I’m going to be pretty wary. I might come armed or at least bring my stapler to the lab.
The second big lesson is that, while those little bugs may control us, we can control them right back. If you’re overweight and struggling with self control, just remember that every day that you eat right, you’re one step closer to building a healthier collection of gut bacteria, which means you’re one step closer to thinking clearer and feeling less hungry all the time. Just take it one day at a time and you’ll get there.
It’s just too bad that Elvis never got this memo. A few less fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches might have cleared up his brain a little–and he wouldn’t be dead today.
… or is he?
brain, elvis, intestinal bacteria, overeating