FAT IMPROVES PERFORMANCE FOR PILOTS

A military-funded study conducted by researchers at the University of North Dakota discovered that pilots who ate the most fatty foods, such as butter or gravy, had the quickest response times in mental tests and made fewer mistakes when flying in tricky conditions. Forty-five student pilots were tracked to test their performance on flight simulators while eating four different diets: high-fat, high-carbohydrate, high-protein, and a control diet.

Psychology professor Tom Petros, who conducted and reviewed the tests, said, “We wound up analyzing the data every which way but upside down. It came out consistent every time.” (As usual, they kept looking for some way to make the findings fit what they already “knew” to be true. If the study had shown the fat-eaters to be mentally less capable, with slowed reflexes, I dare say, they wouldn’t have given it a second thought.)

The researchers concluded that high-carbohydrate diets were much better than high-protein diets and high-fat was slightly better than high-carbohydrate, but you have to see how they defined the diets to understand the results. The menus on all four diets were similar so the participants wouldn’t know which plan they were following. A typical meal consisted of a thin-crust pizza with extra meat and cheese for the fat diet; a thin-crust chicken supreme pizza for the carbohydrate diet; and a grilled chicken breast with mixed salad greens, fat-free dressing, and fat-free shredded cheese for the protein diet. Another meal included brownies for all groups but some had smaller ones and some didn’t have frosting. So the high-fat plan was also high in carbs (what low-carb diet would have pizza and brownies?) and the high-protein diet was really a low-carb, low-fat diet. A low-carb, high-fat, adequate protein diet, which would have trumped them all, was not included.

Even so, the improvement made by the extra fat was obvious to the students. One of them was quoted as saying, “I could tell the difference on how well I was doing on the different diets.” He added, “I think a lot of people felt they did better when they got the lobster and the good stuff.” Well said, young man! Perhaps eventually, the researchers will see what has been staring them in the face all along and realize that fat is not the evil, villainous stuff they have been led to believe it is.

According to the article, National Transportation Safety Board statistics show that 80% of civil and military accidents are caused by human error. Next time you get on a plane, you might want to take along some butter and cheese for the pilot.

Read the Associated Press article here: http://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2009/10/06/hold_the_mayo_not_when_it_comes_to_astute_pilots/

(C) 2009, Judy Barnes Baker

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