High-fat diets have an ‘extraordinary’ effect on anxiety


When feeling stressed, many of us may turn to junk food to help. Perhaps some chocolate for a mid-afternoon boost, or a donut on the way home to reward surviving another 9 to 5.

However, scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder have discovered that eating fatty foods may actually make our anxiety worse.

Which, let’s face it, isn’t ideal.

The team found that when animals were given a high-fat diet, it disrupted their gut bacteria – which in turn altered the brain chemicals that fuel anxiety.

Lead author Professor Christopher Lowry said: ‘Everyone knows that these [high-fat items] are not healthy foods, but we tend to think about them strictly in terms of a little weight gain. 

‘If you understand that they also impact your brain in a way that can promote anxiety, that makes the stakes even higher.’

The government recommends men should not eat more than 30g of saturated fat a day, and women 20g – roughly about 11% of our total energy intake from food.

However, in the UK, many people exceed this, and in the US, the Centers for Disease Control says the typical diet is about 36% fat.

To investigate the effects of this on mental health, the researchers studied adolescent rats, which were divided into two groups. One ate a standard diet of 11% fat for nine weeks, the other a high-fat diet of 45%.

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