Science Daily reports on Ohio State University research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that finds a single meal high in saturated fats, while comforting, totally throws off your ability to concentrate:
“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 pretty 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.
Madison works in the lab of Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State. For this work, Madison conducted a secondary analysis of data from Kiecolt-Glaser’s study assessing whether high-fat meals increased fatigue and inflammation among cancer survivors.
Women in the study completed a baseline assessment of their attention during a morning visit to the lab. The tool, called a continuous performance test, is a measure of sustained attention, concentration and reaction time based on 10 minutes of computer-based activities.
The high-fat meal followed: eggs, biscuits, turkey sausage and gravy containing 60 grams of fat, either a palmitic acid-based oil high in saturated fat or the lower-saturated-fat sunflower oil. Both meals totaled 930 calories and were designed to mimic the contents of various fast-food meals such as a Burger King double whopper with cheese or a McDonald’s Big Mac and medium fries.
Five hours later, the women took the continuous performance test again. Between one and four weeks later, they repeated these steps, eating the opposite meal of what they had eaten on the first visit.
After eating the meal high in saturated fat, all of the participating women were, on average, 11 percent less able to detect target stimuli in the attention assessment. Concentration lapses were also apparent in the women with signs of leaky gut: Their response times were more erratic and they were less able to sustain their attention during the 10-minute test.
“If the women had high levels of endotoxemia, it also wiped out the between-meal differences. They were performing poorly no matter what type of fat they ate,” Madison said.
Though the study didn’t determine what was going on in the brain, Madison said previous research has suggested that food high in saturated fat can drive up inflammation throughout the body, and possibly the brain. Fatty acids also can cross the blood-brain barrier.