It is well known that eating too many high-fat meals will clog arteries and increase heart attack risk, but most people cannot imagine that even a single high-fat meal is enough to damage human cardiovascular function, Canadian scientists found.
Researchers at the University of Calgary looked at the stress responses of 30 students broken into two groups and found that the group eating high-fat were more reactive to stress, recording greater reactivity in several cardiovascular measures, a report by Canadian Television said Monday.
Both groups fasted the night before and one group consumed a fast-food breakfast from McDonald's, the other ate dry cereal with skim milk, cereal bars and non-fat yogurt. Both meals contained the same number of calories. The low-fat breakfast included supplements to balance it for sodium and potassium.
Two hours after eating the breakfasts, the two groups were subjected to standard physical and mental stress tests, including a mathematical test designed to be stressful, a public speaking exercise and others, while having their cardiovascular responses measured.
The researchers then measured the subjects' blood pressure, heart rate and the resistance of blood vessels. "Regardless of the task, we recorded greater reactivity among those who consumed the high-fat meal in several cardiovascular measures we recorded," says Fabijana Jakulj, a University of Calgary student who used the study as the basis for her honors thesis.
Exaggerated or prolonged responses to stress are thought to predict the development of high blood pressure.
Dr. Tavis Campbell, a specialist in behavioral medicine and the study's senior author, says the study suggests a new and damaging way that a high-fat diet affects cardiovascular function. "What's really shocking is that this is just one meal," he says.
The study is published this month in the Journal of Nutrition.