Does Junk Food Affect a Teen’s Brain?


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Junk food can harm a teen’s brain according to, “Warning! Junk foods can harm a teen’s brain” Newsela article. It impairs the ability to learn, think, and remember. It could even increase the risk of acquiring anxiety and depression. Adolescents are more sensitive to food than any other because of three major complications. According to the article, “adolescent brains are still developing the ability to assess risks and control actions.” The prefrontal cortex is a part of a region in the brain that can control our impulsive behaviors. It has several complex functions including complex math and reading. It is also the last part of the brain to mature, which explains why adolescents have trouble controlling their actions towards food. The second major complication, according to the article, includes, “teen brains get more pleasure than adult brains do from rewarding behaviors such as eating junk food.” There’s a natural chemical called dopamine released in our brain that causes a “good” feeling when we experience something rewarding. It’s especially a big problem when it comes to the two strikes, “…heightened drive for rewards and reduced self-regulation,” says Reichelt because of the third issue, “growing brains can be more easily changed by eating high-fat, high-sugar foods.” A study was done to prove impulsive behavior. Considering the fact that a mouse has similar brain development to our own, it was used in the study to understand how what we eat affects us. Group one ate 63 percent of fat while the other ate a healthy diet. It was evident that the mouse was to gain weight, however, they performed worse on the memory tests. According to the article, “Mice on high-fat chow had roughly 35 percent less reelin in their prefrontal cortex compared to mice on a healthy diet,” which contributes to why and how badly they performed the activities. The prefrontal cortex of the mice with a high-fat diet worked less effectively than the mice with healthy diets.
People that have brain diseases often have lower levels of reelin, however, “‘We can’t blame that on junk food in adolescence,’” says Reichelt, “‘but it may be a contributing factor [to risk of disease].’”