(Study by US Army)
Recently I came across a study by Dr. Glenda Lindseth that looked at how diet may affect a pilot’s job performance. Her review of different diet compositions and the effect on decision-making abilities is compelling and worthy of discussion. In her background, she states that aircrew human factors account for approximately 80% of the accidents in the aviation industry. She acknowledges that while the positive effects of a balanced diet and healthy foods have been shown to make significant contributions to improve safety, the effects of diet on cognitive performance are often overlooked. The objective of this study was to test the effects of dietary intake on cognition and flight performance while controlling for all other related factors.
Dr. Lindseth and colleagues enrolled 45 pilots in this study and evaluated their decision making abilities and number of errors following different diets depending on their balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats. At the end of a session with each diet, the pilots underwent cognitive testing with the standard tests for memory and mental alertness. The pilots performed significantly better on the short-term memory test and had fewer errors after eating the diets high in fats and complex carbohydrates vs. just high protein. Lindseth suspects the performance edge with the complex carbohydrate and high-fat diets was related to availability and metabolism of B complex vitamins that occurs with carbohydrate intake.
She speculated that the fats supported brain cell communication and allowed B vitamins to be available for better cognition. Deficiency of B vitamins has been shown to lead to irritability and poor cognition. In conclusion, Dr. Lindseth indicated that this had a direct impact for the military, especially the pilots who are flying, but also for anybody who needs to be alert and have high cognitive performance. She will be conducting a three-year study to further study the short term and long term effects.
So the question you might ask? How much do you believe your diet affects your job performance? It would be interesting to see how strategic business decisions and negotiations fare with these different diets. I suspect we would see similar results.
By Patti Milligan, Director of Nutrition