A Single High-Fat Meal Is
Detrimental For Your Health
So much for the adage, 'All things in moderation.' Researchers
at the University of Calgary have found that people who consume
a single, high-fat meal are more prone to suffer the physical
consequences of stress than those who eat a low-fat meal.
Published this month in the Journal of Nutrition, the study looked
at the stress responses of two groups of students: one group consumed
a fast-food breakfast from McDonald's, the other ate dry cereal
with skim milk, cereal bars and non-fat yogurt.
"What's really shocking is that this is just one meal," says
Dr Tavis Campbell, a specialist in behavioural medicine and senior
author of the study.
"It's been well documented that a high-fat diet leads to artherosclerosis
and high blood pressure, and that exaggerated and prolonged cardiovascular
responses to stress are associated with high blood pressure in
the future. So when we learn that even a single, high-fat meal
can make you more reactive to stress, it's cause for concern because
it suggests a new and damaging way that a high-fat diet affects
In the study, 30 healthy young adults fasted the night before,
then consumed either a high- or low-fat breakfast. Both meals
had the same number of calories and the low-fat breakfast included
supplements to balance it for sodium and potassium.
Two hours later the two groups were subjected to standard physical
and mental stress tests while having their cardiovascular responses
measured. They performed a mathematical test designed to be stressful,
completed a public speaking exercise about something emotionally
provocative, held an arm in ice water, and had a blood pressure
cuff inflated around an arm, which gradually causes a dull ache.
"Regardless of the task, we recorded greater reactivity among
those who consumed the high-fat meal in several cardiovascular
measures we recorded, including blood pressure, heart rate and
the resistance of blood vessels," says Fabijana Jakulj, a U of
C student who used the study as the basis for her honours thesis.
Campbell cautions that despite the grim message that even one
high-fat meal is unhealthy, more research is needed to fully understand
how the mechanisms work. "Telling people to never eat something
is probably not a good way to promote a better diet," he says.
"At the same time we do have an epidemic of obesity in North America
and it's important that people try to make informed choices."