Hey, mouthbreather. Can you spell "succedaneum" without looking it up? Do you even remember the names of all of the commanders involved in the Battle of Grunwald? How's your knowledge of Pappus's centroid theorem, bro?
If your brain is feeling weak, you might blame it on fast food. A recent study out of Australia has found that people who routinely consume sugary drinks, high-sodium snacks, and processed meat tend to have smaller left hippocampi, an area of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and mental health.
To put it more succinctly: Burgers and fries might be shrinking your brain.
The study, recently published in BMC Medicine, compared MRI scans of about 250 people who were in their early 60s in 2001. Based on dietary questionnaires provided to the participants, they were able to separate the pool into two groups: people who ate a "Western" diet that was high in processed foods, fats, salt, and sugar; and people who ate a "prudent" diet composed largely of fruits, vegetables, and fish.
The researchers from Deakin University and the Australian National University found that the people who subscribed to a healthier diet had larger hippocampi, while the fast food fans had smaller ones—and the relative healthiness of their diets directly correlated to their hippocampal volume, as it's called. The healthiest eaters, therefore, had comparatively humongous hippocampi.
The authors of the study—being, you know, scientists—also considered other factors that could affect hippocampal volume, including medication, gender, and mental health issues. Despite that, a poor diet was still a strong predictor of a shrunken hippocampus.
"We've known for some time that components of diet, both healthy and unhealthy, have a rapid impact on aspects of the brain that affect hippocampal size and function, but up until now these studies have only been done in rats and mice," said associate professor Felice Jacka, who led the study, in a press release. "This is the first study to show that this also appears to be the case for humans."
So the next time you have some trouble explaining the breadth and implications of Dasein to drinking buddies, try to remember to hit up a sushi spot for your drunk snacks instead of a burger joint.