Scientists say food is the reason for our lockdown unproductivity

Scientists have found that particular food types make it more difficult for us to focus

22w ago

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Some people are really struggling to get things done. It's not that we don't have time, we can't leave the house, or do the things we would normally be doing: we have the time, we are just not managing to use it effectively. So many times I've heard moans of, "Why can't I be bothered?!" but we may now have an answer.

Scientists at Ohio State University have conducted a study to determine if the food we eat is linked to our productivity. There have been studies like this before, but most of them aim to follow someone adhering to a specific diet over a period of time. This study looked at the effect of a single, saturated fat rich meal on our ability to concentrate following it.

The study involved 51 participants, who had fasted for 12 hours, and then took part in a 'continuous performance test'. This is a computer based test, designed to evaluate your ability to concentrate on a series of challenging tasks. They then ate a meal of 930 calories, around the same number of calories as an average meal of fast food. One group's meal was high in saturated fat, the other's high in unsaturated fat.

Five hours later they took the test again to measure the difference. Some days later, the same people returned and repeated the test but took on the opposite meal from their first visit, to allow for direct comparison.

The results were far clearer than any of the researchers had anticipated, with those taking the test following a meal high in saturated fat on average 11% less able to focus on the task at hand. Concentration lapses were seen in all participants on the high fat arm of the experiment.

It's tough to know which fats are good for us

It's tough to know which fats are good for us

This is all the more relevant right now as many people are turning to meals and snacks that are high in saturated fats as we endure lockdown, making working from home even more challenging. Add to that the knowledge that stress, anxiety, and depression (all unfortunate consequences of lockdown) have also been found to impact our ability to concentrate, it really is a wonder we are getting any work done at all!

It's significant that the type of fat varied in the experiment. Despite its bad reputation, fat is an essential part of our diet, and cutting it out completely would be ill advised, to say the least. We should be trying to stick to more unsaturated fats, which can be found in things like avocado, olives, peanut butter, vegetables, fatty fish like salmon, nuts and seeds, and the oils that come from these things.

Things to avoid would be full fat milk, cheese, butter, high fat cuts of meat, coconut oil, and palm oil.

Image: The Spruce

Image: The Spruce

Of course, cutting these things out all together is a bit extreme (don't ask me to not eat cheese), but we can be more strategic about when and how we eat them. Fewer foods with saturated fat means we enjoy them more when we do have them and, if we save them till the work is done, we might just notice a difference in output – keeping the boss happy too.

Healthy body, healthy mind.

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