Saturated Fats Linked to Poor Stress Coping

We already know that fat kids often become fat adults, fat adults set bad examples for their kids, dietarily, and very few parents feel teaching their children to eat right is important. Now, new research shows that a high-fat diet in your teens may effect how well you deal with stress in  later years…

Kids Eat Fatty Food - © irishnews.comA diet high in saturated fats during your teen years could make you less able
to cope with stress in later years, maybe even develop PTSD…

A new study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity shows that adolescent rats who consume a diet high in saturated fats have a harder time coping with stress as adults. In fact, researchers from Loma Linda University in California found that the areas of the brain that handle the fear/stress response were altered to the point that subjects began exhibiting behaviors that mirror post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Now, the subjects in this study were lab rate, but we already know researchers use rats to test their theories because rats and humans are more alike than we’d probably like to admit. Usually, what goes with rats also applies to humans.

What they did…

The method behind the study was simple: take two groups of identical adolescent rats, and feed one a high-fat diet while feeding the other a regular, healthy diet. Then, researchers compared the two groups’ responses to normal fear stimuli as well as measuring their startle reflexes.

What they found…

Study findings demonstrate that the consumption of a diet that promotes obesity during adolescence has a profound effect both immediate and sustained components of fear in adult rats. Notably, the rats that consumed the high-saturated fat diet exhibited more anxiety, problems with associative and non-associative learning processes, and an impaired fear-startle response.

Startle reflexes are the link to PTSD, and have a prominent role in anxiety and PTSD research. In the study, consumption of an obesity-promoting diet during adolescence reduced the extinction of fear memories – a major impairment observed in people suffering from PTSD. In addition to not properly learning fear associations, the rats on the high-saturated fat diet incorrectly assessed the level of threat in a given situation.

What it means…

“The teen years are a very critical time for brain maturation, including how well (or not) we’ll cope with stress as adults,” says Dr. Johnny Figueroa, Assistant Professor, Division of Physiology, Department of Basic Sciences and Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine, Loma Linda University School of Medicine. “The findings of our research support that lifestyle decisions made during adolescence — even those as simple as your diet — can make a big difference in our ability to overcome every day challenges.”

My take…

In a world that hits us with ever-more stressful situations daily, having a healthy stress-coping mechanism is essential. Optimal stress coping means happier, healthier, stronger, more optimistic people who make better team players, employees and family members.

We should not underestimate the effects, in later life, of habits acquired and decisions made during our formative years. If the study findings are correct, they imply that parental guidance on seemingly routine issues such as diet during the teen years is even more important than previously suspected.

As to the correctness of the study findings, Dr. Figueroa admits much more research must be done before specific findings about the link between fatty teen diets and poor stress coping later in life can be stated. We’ll be eager to hear about them…

~ Maggie J.

Posted under: Comfort Food, Food News, Food Tips

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