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Dietary Fat and the Brain

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:00pm

Over the last six months I’ve come to believe that animal fat improves my sleep. Because sleep is controlled by the brain, this suggests animal fat may also improve other measures of brain function, just as omega-3 turned out to improve brain function in a wide range of ways. I didn’t know about a recent experiment done with airplane pilots that supports that idea. This was the design:

A total of 45 pilots (mean age, 20.8 years; 87% male) from the [University of North Dakota] commercial-aviation program were enrolled in this 14-week repeated-measures crossover trial.

During the first week, participants were randomized to receive 1 of 4 diets (3 full meals and 2 snacks) for 4 days: a diet high in carbohydrates, a diet high in fat, a diet high in protein, or a control diet. After a 2-week “phase-out” period, all pilots then randomly received a different study diet. This process was repeated until all pilots had received all 4 diets.

I haven’t been able to find out much about the high-fat diet. Here are some of the results:

The response time on the Sternberg test of short-term memory was significantly faster for participants who ate the high-fat diet ( < .05) than for those who ate the protein and control diets, especially at higher memory loads.

With sleep, however, the high-carb diet produced the best sleep.

Here is the abstract.

Thanks to Paul Sas.

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