Most people are aware that fatty foods aren’t healthy. Eating too many high fat foods can increase the risk of heart disease and make it more difficult to maintain a healthy body weight. Now there may be one more good reason to avoid fatty foods. A new study shows that a high fat diet may decrease physical endurance as well as reduce the ability to solve problems.
A New Risk of Eating Fatty Foods: The Study
In this study published in the FASEB Journal, researchers studied two groups of rats. One group was given a standard diet, while the other was given a high fat diet. After five days on their respective diets, each rat’s memory was tested in a maze and their endurance tested on a treadmill. To the surprise of the researchers, the rats given the high fat diet had a thirty percent decrease in endurance, while their ability to handle the maze also declined significantly. The researchers were particularly impressed with how quickly these changes occurred once the high fat diet was given. Could it be one more good reason to avoid fatty foods?
The Effects of Eating Fatty Food on Thinking and Endurance
Why would eating fatty foods cause such significant decreases in cognitive ability and physical endurance? The reason why eating fatty foods altered the rats’ ability to think isn’t clear, but the researchers believe they understand why the rats’ physical endurance decreased. It seems that the high fat diet fed to the rats caused “uncoupling” of a protein responsible for providing energy to the heart and peripheral muscles, causing them to be less energy efficient. The researchers now hope to test the effects of eating fatty foods on physical endurance and cognitive function in humans. If this observation holds true for humans as well as rats, it may give people a strong incentive to avoid fatty foods.
Should You Avoid Fatty Foods?: One Caveat
It’s interesting to note that this study doesn’t distinguish between “good” fats and “bad” fats. Saturated fat, found primarily in animal and dairy products, has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and hardening of the arteries, while polyunsaturated fats such as the omega-3’s have shown potential for reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Omega-3’s also have strong anti-inflammatory properties which should be a positive in terms of memory, cognition, and the ability to think. It’s not clear from this study whether all fats would have the same negative effect. Hopefully, further research will clarify this issue. Until then, it’s best to choose heart-healthy fats such as olive oil and fish oils and limit saturated fat from dairy and animal products.