Avoid Eating Fatty Foods When Experiencing Mental Stress, Study Warns

In Education

According to a study conducted at the University of Birmingham, indulging in fatty foods as a means of comfort during stressful times can hinder the body’s ability to recover from stress. This research suggests that opting for such foods may not be the best choice for individuals looking to manage stress effectively.

High-fat foods decrease brain oxygenation during stressful event

Consuming high-fat foods before experiencing mental stress was discovered to decrease brain oxygenation and lead to impaired vascular function in adults, according to the study.

Rosalind Baynham, the first study author and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Birmingham said they conducted an experiment involving young, healthy adults who were given two butter croissants for breakfast. The participants were then asked to perform mental math exercises while being observed on a screen. The purpose of the study was to simulate everyday stress experienced at work or home.

When individuals experience stress, their heart rate and blood pressure increase, blood vessels dilate, and blood flow to the brain intensifies. Findings indicate that consuming fatty foods during mental stress resulted in a 1.74% decline in vascular function, as measured by Brachial Flow-mediated dilatation (FMD). Past studies have shown that a 1% reduction in vascular function increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 13%. Notably, the impairment in vascular function persisted for an extended period when participants consumed croissants.

Arterial elasticity decreases after stressful event

Researchers found that participants exhibited decreased arterial elasticity for up to 90 minutes following a stressful event. Additionally, the consumption of fatty foods was linked to a reduction in cerebral oxygenation in the pre-frontal cortex, leading to a 39% decrease in oxygenated hemoglobin during stress compared to a low-fat meal. Furthermore, the ingestion of fat negatively affected mood, both during and after the stressful episode.

Professor Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten from the University of Birmingham said the study focused on healthy 18–30-year-olds and revealed a significant difference in how their bodies recover from stress when consuming fatty foods. He adds that this finding has potential implications for individuals with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, especially those in high-stress occupations.

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