It’s no secret that what we consume can have a big impact on our lives, including everything from energy levels, concentration, and more. Most people think of sugar and caffeine when it comes to mental effects, but it turns out that saturated fat can also have a big impact on your mind. A new study out of Ohio State University has found that a single meal containing saturated fat may have a major effect on your ability to concentrate.
Saturated fat is a dietary fat that most commonly comes from animal products like meat, butter, and dairy, but it can also be found in some plant-based foods, as well, like coconut oil. This fat is often consumed at high levels by people who eat a low-fat diet or who eat a general Western diet without concern for fat levels.
The new study tasked participants with taking a test, then eating a meal before taking a retest — one group was given a meal high in saturated fat and the other group was given a meal high in sunflower oil with unsaturated fat. After eating the meal, the researchers found that the group fed a high saturated fat meal had worse performance than the group that was given unsaturated fat.
The study’s lead author Annelise Madison called it ‘remarkable’ that a single meal could have a noticeable impact on concentration levels. In the case of this study, a high-fat meal was one that contained eggs, turkey sausage, biscuits, and gravy — the latter ingredient contained either the saturated or unsaturated fat, depending on the participant.
The researchers say they designed these meals to mimic the type someone may get from a common fast food joint, such as a burger and fries. The second performance test was administered five hours after the participants ate the meal. Days later, the same participants ate the opposite meals and performance was once again tested, ultimately linking saturated fat with poorer attention and concentration.