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Need more energy? You might be surprised at this remedy

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Fatty foods and daytime sleepiness linked

Past studies have suggested food plays a role in mental alertness, energy levels and sleepiness. A new study supports the notion that what we eat can make us either sleepy or mentally alert. Fatty foods may be the culprit. What else can a high fat diet to thwart optimal mental function?

Researchers from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine looked at daytime sleepiness among normal, healthy adults.

They found eating carbohydrates can be a ‘pick-me-up’, but eating fatty foods might make us want to head for the bed or couch.

Principal investigator Alexandros Vgontzas, MD, professor of psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pa. explained in a press release the finding had nothing to do with body mass index either. None of the study participants had sleep apnea.

Non-obese healthy adults are not immune to the effects of fat in the diet and mental alertness. Eating fatty foods appears to have an acute effect on daytime sleepiness, which is not a good thing especially when you are at work.

High fat diet a threat to public safety?

Vgontzas suggests it may be so. High fat foods led to daytime sleepiness in all of the 31 study participants whose age ranged from 18 to 65.

For the study, volunteers spent 4 consecutive nights in a sleep lab. Meals were provided 5 times. Sleepiness was assessed with the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT).

“Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue are very prevalent in the modern world and on the rise,” said Vgontzas. “It appears that a diet high in fat decreases alertness acutely, and this may have an impact on an individual’s ability to function and also public safety.”

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The finding also showed eating protein foods had no effect on sleepiness. Higher carbohydrates were associated with increased mental alertness.

Other 'bad' things come from fatty foods

Did you know high fat foods are addictive? No wonder we have trouble giving up our fries, burgers and pastries.

Researchers published findings in 2009 that suggested eating a high fat diet make us lazy and can even impair memory; found in rat studies.

A large recent study conducted on humans and the largest to date showed eating foods that are high in fat; found in the Western diet could lead to memory loss with aging.

The effect of high fat foods on the brain seems to be immediate.

Eating a high fat diet is also found to launch an attack on our existing fat cells, making them behave as though viruses or bacteria are invading. The result zaps the immune system, leading to chronic diseases and may also contribute to type 2 diabetes.

The remedy for more energy may be as simple as eliminating high fat foods, eating the right amount of protein and incorporating carbohydrates into the diet that are low glycemic index to keep blood sugar stable.

The new study is another reason to avoid eating fatty foods. Even if you are not trying to lose weight and are generally healthy, consuming fat could zap you of the energy needed to accomplish daily activities.

High fat foods, according to the authors, might even present a public safety problem from the effect on daytime sleepiness. Please share any of your own experiences with food and how it makes you energized or sleepy.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine
May 7, 2013