Food and Behaviour Research

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Hippocampal-dependent appetitive control is impaired by experimental exposure to a Western-style diet

Stevenson RJ, Francis HM, Attuquayefio T, Gupta D, Yeomans MR, Oaten MJ, Davidson T (2020) Royal Society Open Science 19;7(2) 191338. doi: 10.1098/rsos.191338. eCollection 2020 Feb. 

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Animals fed a Western-style diet (WS-diet) demonstrate rapid impairments in hippocampal function and poorer appetitive control. We examined if this also occurs in humans.

One-hundred and ten healthy lean adults were randomized to either a one-week WS-diet intervention or a habitual-diet control group. Measures of hippocampal-dependent learning and memory (HDLM) and of appetitive control were obtained pre- and post-intervention. HDLM was retested at three-week follow-up.

Relative to controls, HDLM performance declined in the WS-diet group (
d = 0.43), but was not different at follow-up. Appetitive control also declined in the WS-diet group (d = 0.47) and this was strongly correlated with HDLM decline (d = 1.01).

These findings demonstrate that a WS-diet can rapidly impair appetitive control in humans—an effect that could promote overeating in consumers of a WS-diet. The study also suggests a functional role for the hippocampus in appetitive control and provides new evidence for the adverse neurocognitive effects of a WS-diet.


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