In just over one week, you can make yourself fatter, lazier and -- yes -- stupider. All you have to do is frequent the drive-thru at your favorite fast-food joints.
At least, that seems to be the case with rats, according to new University of Cambridge research published by the The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Scientists fed rats a high-fat diet and in four days the suffered from a decreased ability to exercise, and in nine days they experienced "significant" short-term memory loss. By the fourth day of a high-fat binge, the accumulation of a protein in their cells' energy-producing mitochondria sapped the rats' ability to use oxygen, causing their hearts to both work harder and grow bigger. By day nine, they were having trouble completing a maze and made more mistakes than their counterparts fed a low-fat diet.
Gerald Weissmann, the editor of the FASEB Journal that published the study called the phenomenon a "high-fat hangover."
"Western diets are typically high in fat and are associated with long-term complications, such as obesity, diabetes and heart failure, yet the short-term consequences of such diets have been given relatively little attention," said Andrew Murray, co-author of the study and currently at the University of Cambridge. "We hope that the findings of our study will help people to think seriously about reducing the fat content of their daily food intake to the immediate benefit of their general health, well-being and alertness."
The experimental rat diets delivered 55% of calories from fat. For comparison, a Nacho Cheese Dorito or a Burger King Whopper will deliver roughly 50% of its calories from fat. (McDonald's fries are a relative caloric bargain, at about 43% calories from fat.)
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