One More Reason to Take a Pass on Junk Food: The Brain-Belly Connection

French fries

We are what we eat. Your mother said it (at least a hundred times), and now scientists have proved it.

PROTECT YOUR MEMORY Activate your access to AARP Staying Sharp today!

Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University set out to find out if the typical junk food diet of many Americans had any effect on their short- and long-term memory powers, as well as their ability to adapt and switch gears when life throws you a curve ball (a brain skill known as cognitive flexibility).

What they learned, is that the unhealthy levels of fat and sugar in foods like fries and cookies tinker with the microbiome in your gut to the point where those brain functions are, in fact, compromised.


It turns out that there’s a set of rogue bacteria in your gut that love it when you chow down on chips and such. The more junk food you eat, the more those bad bacteria begin to outperform the beneficial bacteria (the good guys).

It’s quite a showdown. To learn more about it — plus the best ways to keep your microbiome in check — activate your access to AARP Staying Sharp today! It’s easy to enroll and is included with your AARP membership.

Search AARP Blogs