Consider this before you have your next “cheat day” . . .

Scientists have discovered how eating just one unhealthy meal takes its toll on the body.

In a world-first study, researchers at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia fed a meal of carrot cake and a milkshake to 14 volunteers and studied the immediate effect.

While all the meals had the same calories, half were made with saturated fats, like butter and coconut oil, and half with healthier polyunsaturated fats, like safflower oil.

Results revealed that the volunteers who ate saturated (bad) fats showed that, six hours later, were struggling to process the fats in the meal.

The polyunsaturated meal, on the other hand, had boosted the impact of good cholesterol resulting in fewer inflammatory agents in the arteries than before the meal.

The scientists responsible for the research suggest this was the first study to show that one meal heavy in saturated fats can hamper the protective mechanisms that usually prevent clogged arteries.

The researchers found a big difference between the two types of meals and their impact on each subject’s arteries.

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One single meal high in saturated fat can impede the work of ‘good’ cholesterol, impairing the ability of our blood vessels to react normally and protect against the build-up of damaging plaque.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, helps us understand how saturated fats encourage plaque to form in the arterial wall which ultimately leads to heart disease and stroke.

There is a strong health message in these findings. What harm could one “cheat meal” do? A lot, according to this study.

Obviously, we need to sharply reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diet. That means making some conscious choices that not only involve avoiding foods high in saturated fat, it also means, incorporating more foods that contain the correct essential fats – the fats that actually help you build a leaner, healthier body.

In future articles I’ll give you a complete rundown on exactly the right fats to speed results from exercise training.

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What harm does one bad meal do?

by Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS. time to read: 2 min