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FASEB J. 2011 Mar;25(3):1088-96. doi: 10.1096/fj.10-171983. Epub 2010 Nov 24.

Short-term consumption of a high-fat diet impairs whole-body efficiency and cognitive function in sedentary men.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


We recently showed that a short-term high-fat diet blunted exercise performance in rats, accompanied by increased uncoupling protein levels and greater respiratory uncoupling. In this study, we investigated the effects of a similar diet on physical and cognitive performance in humans. Twenty sedentary men were assessed when consuming a standardized, nutritionally balanced diet (control) and after 7 d of consuming a diet comprising 74% kcal from fat. Efficiency was measured during a standardized exercise task, and cognition was assessed using a computerized assessment battery. Skeletal muscle mitochondrial function was measured using (31)P magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The diet increased mean ± se plasma free fatty acids by 44% (0.32±0.03 vs. 0.46±0.05 mM; P<0.05) and decreased whole-body efficiency by 3% (21±1 vs. 18±1%; P<0.05), although muscle uncoupling protein (UCP3) content and maximal mitochondrial function were unchanged. High-fat diet consumption also increased subjects' simple reaction times (P<0.01) and decreased power of attention (P<0.01). Thus, we have shown that a high-fat diet blunts whole-body efficiency and cognition in sedentary men. We suggest that this effect may be due to increased respiratory uncoupling.

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