Food for Thought: How Skipping Lunch and Psychiatric Illness Affect Cognition
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Meal skipping is a common disordered eating behavior in college-aged individuals. This behavior is associated with a variety of health risks, including nutritional deficits and an increased risk for eating pathology. Research has indicated that meal skipping is also associated with impairments in various domains of cognitive functioning, including in tasks involving working memory, sustained attention, and set-shifting ability. However, a "post-lunch dip" in cognitive performance has been shown in individuals who consume lunch for approximately two hours after consumption. Possible moderating factors within the relationship between meal skipping and cognitive functioning have yet to be examined, particularly in regards to the presence of psychopathology. Both depression and anxiety symptoms have been associated with impairments in tasks involving working memory, sustained attention, set-shifting ability, and motor speed, indicating that individuals with these disorders may be particularly vulnerable to cognitive impairments seen with meal skipping behavior. This study investigated how skipping lunch affects various domains of cognitive functioning (working memory, sustained attention, set-shifting ability, and motor speed) after the post-lunch dip period in a sample of college students (aged 18-25; N = 99), primarily focusing on whether depression and/or anxiety symptoms moderate this relationship. Understanding the mechanisms by which meal skipping behavior affects cognition by examining potential moderating effects of common eating disorder comorbidities, such as depression and anxiety, has implications for encouraging healthier eating habits and preventing eating disorder onset in a vulnerable population.
DepartmentPsychology and Neuroscience
CitationBidopia, Tatyana (2019). Food for Thought: How Skipping Lunch and Psychiatric Illness Affect Cognition. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18364.
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Rights for Collection: Undergraduate Honors Theses and Student papers