Five days of fatty foods alters how the body processes nutrients

By Brooks Hays
Just five days of a high-fat diet can alter how the body's muscles process sugar. File photo by UPI/Brian Kersey
Just five days of a high-fat diet can alter how the body's muscles process sugar. File photo by UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 14 (UPI) -- Most nutritionists agree it's okay to indulge now and then. Even the healthiest of eaters have their weaknesses. But new research shows just how quickly a poor diet can alter the insides.

According to a new study, five days of fatty foods changes the way the body's muscles absorb and process nutrients. Researchers say the results are further reminder that even short-term forays into unhealthy habits can have long-lasting effects.


"Most people think they can indulge in high-fat foods for a few days and get away with it," Matt Hulver, a professor at Virginia Tech and expert on diet and exercise, explained in a recent press release. "But all it takes is five days for your body's muscle to start to protest."

Muscles make up 30 percent of the average person's bodyweight. They also play a leading role in metabolizing glucose. When blood-sugar levels rise during and after eating, muscles process the excess sugar, deciding either to use or store that energy. If the muscular system's ability to metabolize sugar is compromised, the consequences for the rest of the body can be quite bad.


As part of the new study, researchers had students at Virginia Tech eat a diet consisting of 55 percent fat. Most diets are composed of roughly 30 percent fat. Meals included, among other items, sausage biscuits and macaroni and cheese. Butter was applied liberally.

After five days, researchers measured metabolic signatures and found high-fat eaters were less efficient at oxidizing glucose. Researchers say the consequences could diminish a person's ability to regulate insulin spikes, which raise a person's risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic diseases.

"This shows that our bodies are can respond dramatically to changes in diet in a shorter time frame than we have previously thought," Hulver said. "If you think about it, five days is a very short time. There are plenty of times when we all eat fatty foods for a few days, be it the holidays, vacations, or other celebrations. But this research shows that those high-fat diets can change a person's normal metabolism in a very short timeframe."

The research was published this week in the journal Obesity. Hulver and his colleagues plan on further exploring the long-term health effects of a disruption in the muscular system's metabolizing abilities. They also plan to study how quickly the effects of a high-fat diet can be reversed.


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