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Why saturated fat is bad news for concentration

Why saturated fat is bad news for concentration

Eating just one meal that is high in saturated fat can hinder your ability to concentrate, researchers from the Ohio State University have found.

Why saturated fat is bad news for concentration

The study compared how 51 women performed on a test of their attention after they ate either a meal high in saturated fat compared to the same meal that was made with unsaturated fat.  The researchers also looked at the affect of leaky gut on concentration.

The study showed that performance was worse after eating the high-saturated-fat meal than after they ate the meal containing unsaturated fat, signalling a link between that fatty food and the brain.

“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.

The high-fat meals contained 60 grams of fat, and were made with a palmitic acid-based oil high in saturated fat or the lower-saturated-fat sunflower oil. Both meals totalled 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.

After eating the meal high in saturated fat, all of the participating women were, on average, 11 per cent less able to detect target stimuli in the attention assessment. Concentration lapses were also apparent in the women with signs of leaky gut after eating both types of fat: their response times were more erratic and they were less able to sustain their attention.

“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,”  says Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State. “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.”

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