Does saturated fat impact the brain quicker than we think?

Brain and Fat

Does saturated fat impact the brain quicker than we think?

Saturated fat

Saturated fat may reduce our ability to concentrate as discovered within new research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

A meal high in saturated fat or the same meal made with sunflower oil, which is high in unsaturated fat was eaten by 51 women at which point attention tests were performed.

The results showed that the ability to focus attention were worse after eating the meal high in saturated fat, which suggests there was a link between the food and the brain.

Each meal totalled 930 calories and were designed to mimic the contents of various fast-food meals. This consisted of a high-fat meal containing eggs, biscuits, turkey sausage and gravy containing 60 grams of fat, as well as either a palmitic acid-based oil high in saturated fat or sunflower oil, which contains less saturated fat. 

"Most prior work looking at the causative effect of the diet has looked over a period of time. And this was just one meal -- it's remarkable that we saw a difference," said Annelise Madison, lead author of the study and a graduate student in clinical psychology at The Ohio State University.

To establish a baseline, participants completed an attention assessment during a morning visit to the lab. The data was collected via a continuous performance test which measures sustained attention and records reaction time based on 10 minutes of computer-based activities. After five hours, the participants took the performance test a second time. This process was repeated between one and four weeks later, eating the opposite meal the second time.

On average, tests were 11% less able to detect target stimuli in the assessment after the consumption of the meal high in saturated fat.

The findings suggest that those who are stressed and turning to fatty foods may find their concentration may be impaired. 

"What we know is that when people are more anxious, a good subset of us will find high-saturated-fat food more enticing than broccoli," she said. "We know from other research that depression and anxiety can interfere with concentration and attention as well. When we add that on top of the high-fat meal, we could expect the real-world effects to be even larger."

 

REFERENCES:

Janice K Kiecolt-Glaser, Michael T Bailey, William B Malarkey, Megan E Renna, M Rosie Shrout, Rebecca Andridge, Martha A Belury, Annelise A Madison. Afternoon distraction: a high-saturated-fat meal and endotoxemia impact postmeal attention in a randomized crossover trialThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2020; DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqaa085

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