Fatty food may feel like comfort, but it seems to have an immediate impact on our attention. A recent study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicated that eating just one meal high in saturated fats can lower our ability to focus. The researchers also found similar results in the case of endotoxemia or leaky gut.
The researchers used a double-blind, randomized, cross-over trial for their study. 51 women participated in the study. Of these 32 were breast cancer survivors. A baseline assessment of their attention was done through a tool known as a Continuous Performance Test. 10-minutes computer-based activities are used to check reaction time and concentration. After this, the participants ate a high-fat meal, which was designed to mimic fast-food meals. One group ate a meal high in saturated fat, while the other contained sunflower oil, which is lower in saturated fats. The energy intake for both meals was around 930 calories.
The post-meal assessment was done 5 hours later with the Continuous Performance Test. The women repeated this experiment within one to four weeks. In the second instance, they ate the other meal. That is, the group which took the high-saturated-fat meal ate the sunflower oil meal and vice versa. The researchers also focused on the performance of participants who showed early signs of endotoxemia.
The team found that after the saturated fat meal, attention lowered in all the participating women. On average they were 11 percent less likely to spot the stimuli in their attention test. Women with symptoms of endotoxemia showed even more marked lapses of attention with a more erratic performance. In fact, the presence of endotoxemia may override the healthier choice in oils. This study, however, does not show us the acute impact of saturated fats and endotoxemia on cognitive performance.