Learning and Memory Impairment in Rats Fed a High Saturated Fat Diet

Behav Neural Biol. 1990 Jan;53(1):74-87. doi: 10.1016/0163-1047(90)90831-p.


At the age of 1 month, three separate groups of Long-Evans rats were placed on 20% (w/w) fat (40% of calories) diets high in either saturated fatty acids (lard-based) or polyunsaturated fatty acids (soybean oil-based) or standard laboratory chow (Purina, 4.5% (w/w) fat). After 3 months, all rats were administered three tests of learning and memory--Olton's radial arm maze, a variable-interval delayed alternation task, and the Hebb-Williams maze series. The lard-fed group was impaired on all tests. The soybean oil-fed group was slightly impaired on some measures, relative to the chow-fed group, but consistently performed better than the lard-fed group. The results indicate that a diet high in saturated fatty acids can impair a wide range of learning and memory functions and are in line with biochemical and physiological evidence showing widespread effects of such diets on brain function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / administration & dosage*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Fatty Acids, Essential