The impact of saturated fat, added sugar and their combination on human hippocampal integrity and function: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Zoe B. Taylor, Richard J. Stevenson*, Lauren Ehrenfeld, Heather M. Francis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Paralleling animal research, there is emerging evidence that a Western-style (WS) diet – high in saturated fat and added sugar – impairs human hippocampal functioning. However, the conditions under which this occurs are not fully understood and there have been published failures to detect such effects. To date, there has been no systematic review or meta-analysis of relevant human studies. We undertook a systematic database search and review. Twenty studies were identified, two experimental, with the remainder correlational. The latter were included in a meta-analyses on the impact of WS-diet and its macronutrient components on human hippocampal function. Effects of age and sex were also examined. A WS-diet adversely impacted human hippocampal volume and functioning, with a small-pooled effect size. No effects were found for individual macronutrients. There was a high-level of study heterogeneity, which was not fully explained by study/sample characteristics. This may arise via the wide range of assessment tools used to measure both dietary intake and hippocampal functioning. Overall, a WS-diet clearly impacts human hippocampal functioning as in animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-106
Number of pages16
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Volume130
Early online date13 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • human models
  • Western-style diet
  • high fat diet
  • high sugar diet
  • hippocampus
  • learning and memory
  • cognition

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