Fast food's strong influence continues to take effect in widespread health risks across the globe. The result of a recent Australian study might put you off the junk for good.

Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) and Deakin University reveal that older people who follow a Western Diet (or those with unhealthy eating habits) have smaller hippocampi compared to the other subjects who consciously eat healthy options.

The Western Diet consists mostly of salty processed foods and unhealthy sugars. A Prudent Diet or healthy diet is made up of better options such as fish, vegetables, and fruits.

The hippocampus is a vital brain part responsible for mental health, learning and memory. The brain has two hippocampi - left and right. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is used to measure the hippocampal size of around 250 adults aged 60 to 64 years old. While the study takes into account other factors that may affect the hippocampal volume, such as gender, medication, education and depression, the correlation between the diets and the hippocampi persists in all participants.

"It is becoming even clearer that diet is critically important to mental as well as physical health throughout life," says Associate Professor Felice Jacka, Deakin University's lead study author and researcher. Past studies show the impact of diets, healthy and unhealthy in hippocampal size, but these studies were done in lab rats and mice. The ANU and Deakin University research is the first study to show junk food's effect on the human brain.

"Mental disorders account for the leading cause of disability worldwide, while rates of dementia are increasing as the population ages," Jacka adds. The study is making headlines in the health community since its publication in the journal BMC Medicine.

In extreme cases, people with damaged hippocampi are unable to retain new memories. While the hippocampi naturally decrease in size as you age, the significant difference in hippocampal size between people with healthy and unhealthy diets may explain the sudden rise of mental health issues including Alzheimer's diseases. The clear relationship between one's food choices and brain health may help sustain a stronger determination to go for healthier food options for good.

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