A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology is warning that people consuming an additional 650 calories per day could develop impaired brain and cognitive functions.
Australian National University professor Nicolas Cherbuin, the lead author of the study titled Sugar in mind: Untangling a sweet and sour relationship beyond type 2 diabetes, analyzed 200 international studies including another that monitored the cognitive health of more than 7,000 people. Researchers concluded that lifestyle choices could lead to deteriorating brain functions.
"People are eating away at their brain with a really bad fast-food diet and little-to-no exercise," Cherbuin said in a university newsletter.
"We've found strong evidence that people's unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise for sustained periods of time puts them at serious risk of developing type 2 diabetes and significant declines in brain function, such as dementia and brain shrinkage."
The study shows that about 30% of the world's adult population is overweight, and approximately 10% of adults will have type 2 diabetes by 2030.
"The link between type 2 diabetes and the rapid deterioration of brain function is already well established," Professor Cherbuin said.
"But our work shows that neurodegeneration, or the loss and function of neurons, sets in much, much earlier - we've found a clear association between this brain deterioration and unhealthy lifestyle choices.
"The damage done is pretty much irreversible once a person reaches midlife, so we urge everyone to eat healthy and get in shape as early as possible - preferably in childhood but certainly by early adulthood."
The study notes that people today are consuming 650 more calories per day than someone living back almost five decades ago.
"The extra amount of energy that people consume daily compared to 50 years ago means that many people have an unhealthy diet," he said. "People eating too much of the wrong kind of food, particularly fast food, is the other big worry. As a society, we need to stop asking, 'do you want fries with that?', and the mindset that comes with it. If we don't, then expect to see more overweight and obese people suffering from serious diseases."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of young Americans who are affected by obesity has tripled since the 1970s.
With roughly 40% of Americans overweight, and likely their cognitive processes deteriorating, it seems like the proliferation of artificial intelligence and automation has arrived at the perfect time.