Fat Type Might Be the Answer to Your Lack of Motivation to Exercise

Research offers insight into the role that fat consumption may have on dopamine, and on your motivation as a result.

By Laura Peill
Jul. 16, 2018 13:51 UTC

The brain func­tions on a series of trans­mis­sions of sig­nals from neu­rons and in return releases selected chem­i­cals within the body, known as neu­ro­trans­mit­ters.

A diet rich in sat­u­rated fat inde­pen­dent of weight gain and related meta­bolic changes impairs sen­si­tiv­ity to the reward­ing and loco­mo­tor effects of AMPH.- University of Montreal Researchers

One of these chem­i­cals is dopamine. Touted as the reward and plea­sure-dri­ving chem­i­cal, it is also the neu­ro­trans­mit­ter which plays a big role in moti­va­tion and the degree to which we are or aren’t moti­vated to com­plete a cer­tain task -– like get­ting off the couch and go for a run.

And while sci­en­tists have long known about this rela­tion­ship and have been research­ing dopamine’s role and effects, new research offers insight into the role that fat con­sump­tion may have on this neu­ro­trans­mit­ter, and on your moti­va­tion as a result.

In a study, pub­lished by the University of Montreal, researchers showed that rats who over­con­sumed sat­u­rated fat had decreased func­tion in mesolim­bic dopamine release and sig­nal­ing. The con­sump­tion of monoun­sat­u­rated fat did not yield the same results.

In fact, the study showed that intake of sat­u­rated lipids can sup­press dopamine sig­nal­ing, which leads toward a decrease in moti­va­tion. When this was com­pared to an intake of the equiv­a­lent amount of monoun­sat­u­rated fat, the out­come showed that this type of fat can pro­tect against these changes and bet­ter sus­tain the body’s nat­ural propen­sity towards reward and moti­va­tion.

It has long been rec­og­nized that con­sump­tion of dietary fat can con­tribute to issues of phys­i­cal health, such as car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and obe­sity. Less research has been released on its effects on men­tal health and brain func­tion. The increas­ing trend towards using fat as fuel, how­ever, and its appar­ent energy-boost­ing ben­e­fits have led researchers to gain a deeper under­stand­ing of fat’s impact on the brain.

One of these areas which has shown up is in the brain’s reward cir­cuitry sys­tem. The pre­cise means by which sat­u­rated fats alter the brain chem­istry is still not fully under­stood, but some researchers are see­ing that it works partly by chang­ing the expres­sion of dopamine-related genes. This, in turn, affects how the body receives and sends sig­nals related to moti­va­tion and reward.

Dropping this into con­text, the research offers fur­ther evi­dence toward the need to reduce intake of sat­u­rated fat in the diet, not only from a health con­di­tion per­spec­tive but also to allow for bet­ter brain func­tion when it comes to moti­va­tion and reward.

The intake of sat­u­rated fat, which con­tributes to obe­sity, is also a lead­ing con­trib­u­tor to one’s lack of moti­va­tion, which could have an impact when it comes to things requir­ing a high moti­va­tional input, such as exer­cise. The lack of moti­va­tion and exer­cise fur­ther per­pet­u­ate the poten­tial obe­sity prob­lem, and as such the cycle feeds itself.

Monounsaturated fat intake may be able to pro­tect against these moti­va­tional declines and the con­sump­tion of olive oil and other monoun­sat­u­rated fat sources is highly encour­aged.


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