Single Fatty Meal Stresses Heart
Study Shows High-Fat Meal May Heighten Unhealthy Effects of Stress on Heart
WebMD News Archive
April 25, 2007 -- Just one trip through the drive-through for a fatty,
fast-food meal could put your heart at risk.
A new study shows eating a fatty meal heightens the unhealthy effects of
stress on the heart, like raising blood pressure.
Researchers found that people who ate a fatty, fast-food breakfast were more
prone to suffer the negative effects of stress than those who ate a healthy,
"What's really shocking is that this is just one meal," says
researcher Tavis Campbell, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the
University of Calgary, in a news release. "It's been well documented that a
high-fat diet leads to atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries] and high
blood pressure, and that exaggerated and prolonged cardiovascular responses to
stress are associated with high blood pressure in the future."
"So when we learn that even a single, high-fat meal can make you more
reactive to stress, it's cause for concern because it suggests a new and
damaging way that a high-fat diet affects cardiovascular function."
Single Meal May Do Harm
In the study, 30 healthy adults fasted the night before and then ate either
a high-fat breakfast from McDonald's consisting of a sausage McMuffin, an egg
McMuffin, and two hash brown patties or a low-fat breakfast of dry cereal with
skim milk, a cereal fruit bar, fat-free yogurt, and a glass of orange
Both meals contained about 800 calories, but the high-fat meal had 42 grams
of fat, and the low-fat meal had 1 gram of fat. A sodium supplement was added
to the low-fat meal to even out the difference between the two meals.
Two hours later, the participants completed several stress-inducing tasks
while researchers measured their cardiovascular response, including blood
pressure, heart rate, and resistance within blood vessels. The tasks were
designed to provoke mental and/or physical stress, such as completing a public
speaking exercise about something emotionally provocative or holding a hand in
The results showed that regardless of the task, the blood pressure response
was greater among those who ate the high-fat meal than those who ate the
Researchers say it's unclear how a single high-fat meal can sensitize the
body to stress, but the results suggest a new way in which high-fat diets may
contribute to heart disease.