Crash dieting hinders memory and reactions - News - The Independent

Crash dieting hinders memory and reactions

BRITISH ASSOCIATION Anxiety about food slows the brain n Narrow escape with killer comet n Code-breaking PCs n An alternative antibiotic

WOMEN ON crash diets have slower reactions, suffer memory loss and find it difficult to think straight, according to a study linking anxiety about food to mental impairment.

Scientists found the reactions of female dieters were 15 to 20 per cent slower than those of non-dieters, and their short-term memory was between 10 and 20 per cent worse than that of women eating what they wanted, the British Association was told yesterday. Mental impairment resulted from anxiety about food rather than deficiency of nutrients caused by fasting, the researchers concluded.

"We found that dieters display poorer memory, an impaired ability to sustain attention over a period of time, and slower reaction," said Michael Green, who conducted the research at the Institute of Food Research in Reading. "We found this is a function of being on a diet per se because when we tested the same people, their performance is impaired when they are dieting but not when they are eating what they want," Dr Green said. "Rather than this being due to the biological consequence of underfeeding and starvation, we think this is due to the psychological consequences of dieting. We found that when we actually try experimentally to deprive people of food for a period of time we do not get these effects."

Eating a chocolate bar failed to improve the performance of dieters; for some people the snack even made things worse, suggesting that food anxiety rather than low blood glucose levels is responsible. The scientists said the findings are the result of a person's preoccupation with food and body shape, their constant thoughts about hunger and a feeling of low self-esteem.

Dr Green suggested that the psychological preoccupations of dieters may be analogous to the limited memory of a computer, with dieters using up limited processing capability within their brains.

"Using the computer analogy," Dr Green said, "if you have one document or program running at any one time that functions well, but if you try to run three or four programs at the same time, the system slows down because there is only a limited capacity to do what is being set.

"It [the effect of dieting] is quite comparable to what you get with anxiety or depression. So there is nothing special about dieting; this is simply what happens with any preoccupying worry," he added. Meanwhile, a second study also found that skipping breakfast was linked to short- term mental impairment, according to David Benton, a psychologist at the University of Wales in Swansea, who studied 832 women to test the idea that fasting has a negative impact on memory.

"The ability to recall a list of words was greatest when tested less than 30 minutes after eating breakfast. Following breakfast, the ability to remember a word list declined progressively over three and a half hours," Dr Benton said.

The researchers found that the memories of women who ate breakfast were significantly better at all periods in the morning than those of the people who had missed the meal. Eating a breakfast also promoted a feeling of well-being, Dr Benton added.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skies as 007 for first time
Sport
footballThe latest scores and news from Dortmund vs Arsenal and Liverpool vs Ludogorets
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
Life and Style
techCriminals now targeting e-readers
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Life and Style
fashion
Travel
news This video may make you think twice about ever taking the Tube again
Life and Style
A spider is seen in its web on September 16, 2014 in Hohen Meissner, Germany.
tech The 'Spider in Da House' app has been developed by scientists to tackle arachnophobia
Life and Style
fashionIncredibly, it hasn't been branded 'Will.eye.am'
News
A plane flies close to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano
newsAnd yes, it's quite something
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week