Afternoon distraction: a high-saturated-fat meal and endotoxemia impact postmeal attention in a randomized crossover trial

Saturated-fat intake and endotoxemia can impair cognition. However, their acute impact on cognitive performance is unknown..

In this double-blind, randomized crossover trial, 51 women (n = 32 breast cancer survivors, n = 19 noncancer controls; mean ± SD age: 53 ± 8 y) completed the Continuous Performance Test (CPT) and had their blood drawn to assess endotoxemia markers LPS binding protein (LBP), soluble CD14 (sCD14), and the LBP to sCD14 ratio 1 h prior to eating either a high-saturated-fat meal or a high-oleic-sunflower-oil meal. Women again completed the CPT 5 h postmeal. At 1 to 4 wk later, women completed the same protocol but consumed the other meal.

In adjusted models, women had more difficulty distinguishing target stimuli from distractors after consuming the high-saturated-fat meal than they did after the oleic-sunflower-oil meal (B = 4.44, SE = 1.88, P = 0.02). Women with higher baseline LBP had less consistent response times (B = 0.002, SE = 0.0008, P = 0.04). Those with higher LBP and LBP:sCD14 were less able to sustain their attention throughout the entire CPT, as reflected by their progressively slower (B = 0.002, SE = 0.0006, P = 0.003; and B = 2.43, SE = 0.090, P = 0.008, respectively) and more erratic (B = 0.003, SE = 0.0008, P < 0.0001; and B = 3.29, SE = 1.17, P = 0.006, respectively) response times.

Additionally, women with higher baseline LBP or sCD14 were less able to maintain or increase response speeds at higher interstimulus intervals (B = 0.002, SE = 0.0006, P = 0.02; and B = 0.006, SE = 0.003, P = 0.03, respectively), indicating greater difficulty adapting to changing task demands. Significant meal type by LBP and LBP:sCD14 interactions emerged (P < 0.05), such that high LBP and LBP:sCD14 erased between-meal cognitive differences, uniformly impairing performance.

These results suggest that higher LBP, sCD14, and LBP:sCD14 and saturated-fat intake individually and jointly influence attention. Endotoxemia may override the relative cognitive benefit of healthier oil choices.