Meal skipping and cognition along a spectrum of restrictive eating.
OBJECTIVE: Inadequate nutrition adversely impacts brain development and cognitive functioning (Pollitt et al., 1983). Studies examining the acute impact of eating regular meals on cognition have reported inconsistent findings, necessitating the exploration of individual differences in samples contributing to equivocal results. The present study examines the impact of skipping lunch on cognitive ability in college-aged students by including eating restraint as a moderator. METHODS: Participants were 99 college-aged students (M = 19.7 years, SD = 1.5) randomized to a blinded 'lunch' or 'lunch-omission' condition, and assessed on memory, attention, processing speed, set shifting, and eating disorder symptomology. RESULTS: Regressing long and short-term memory on the lunch manipulation, eating restraint scores, and their interaction revealed significant interactions: those who had lunch had superior memory performance, but only for those reporting lower levels of eating restraint. Regressing set shifting speed on the manipulation, those who had lunch had slower set shifting speed than those who skipped, but only for those reporting lower levels of eating restraint. CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that skipping lunch may have immediate consequences on cognition, however, cognitive enhancing effects may be diminished in the presence of even low levels of eating restraint. Findings highlight the significance of purported subclinical levels of eating restraint and may inform health education strategies.
Datta, N; Bidopia, T; Datta, S; Mittal, G; Alphin, F; Marsh, EJ; Fitzsimons, GJ; Strauman, TJ; Zucker, NL
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