Researchers reported that the animals in the high-saturated fat diet group exhibited alterations in the structure of brain regions associated with PTSD, including the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Notably, the group found that the left-brain hemisphere seems to be more vulnerable to the effects of high-saturated fat diet consumption and obesity-related metabolic alterations. Understanding the neural networks that predispose obese adolescents to developing anxiety and stress-related disorders may help target metabolic measures to alleviate the burden of mental illness in this growing population.
Figueroa said the study leaves other questions open for further investigation, such as replicability in human subjects and if the alterations seen in the brain structures are permanent or whether the effects can be reversed. Study limitations include lack of clarity on how the high-saturated fat diet impacts the adult brain, and whether the effects of the obesogenic diet on the fear response are related to deficits in fear memory consolidation, retrieval and expression.