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Fat Consumption Attenuates Cortical Oxygenation during Mental Stress in Young Healthy Adults

Baynham R, Lucas S, Weaver S, Zanten J, Rendeiro C (2023) Nutrients  Sep 14;15(18):3969 doi: 10.3390/nu15183969. 

Web URL: Read this article on PubMed


Mental stress has been associated with cardiovascular events and stroke, and has also been linked with poorer brain function, likely due to its impact on cerebral vasculature. During periods of stress, individuals often increase their consumption of unhealthy foods, especially high-fat foods. Both high-fat intake and mental stress are known to impair endothelial function, yet few studies have investigated the effects of fat consumption on cerebrovascular outcomes during periods of mental stress. Therefore, this study examined whether a high-fat breakfast prior to a mental stress task would alter cortical oxygenation and carotid blood flow in young healthy adults. In a randomised, counterbalanced, cross-over, postprandial intervention study, 21 healthy males and females ingested a high-fat (56.5 g fat) or a low-fat (11.4 g fat) breakfast 1.5 h before an 8-min mental stress task. Common carotid artery (CCA) diameter and blood flow were assessed at pre-meal baseline, 1 h 15 min post-meal at rest, and 10, 30, and 90 min following stress. Pre-frontal cortex (PFC) tissue oxygenation (near-infrared spectroscopy, NIRS) and cardiovascular activity were assessed post-meal at rest and during stress. Mental stress increased heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and PFC tissue oxygenation. Importantly, the high-fat breakfast reduced the stress-induced increase in PFC tissue oxygenation, despite no differences in cardiovascular responses between high- and low-fat meals. Fat and stress had no effect on resting CCA blood flow, whilst CCA diameter increased following consumption of both meals. This is the first study to show that fat consumption may impair PFC perfusion during episodes of stress in young healthy adults. Given the prevalence of consuming high-fat foods during stressful periods, these findings have important implications for future research to explore the relationship between food choices and cerebral haemodynamics during mental stress.


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