Effects of protein and carbohydrate meals on mood and performance: Interactions with sex and age

Bonnie Spring*, Owen Maller, Judith Wurtman, Larry Digman, Louis Cozolino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

143 Scopus citations


Normal adult subjects (n=184) consumed a high-protein or high-carbohydrate meal. Two hours later their mood and performance were tested. The effects of meal composition on mood were different for men and women, and for older and younger subjects. Females, but not males, reported greater sleepiness after a carbohydrate as opposed to a protein meal. Male subjects, but not females, reported greater calmness after a carbohydrate as opposed to a protein meal. Older subjects responded differently to meals depending upon the time of day when these were consumed. When meals were eaten for breakfast (but not for lunch) individuals 40 yr of age or older felt more tense and less calm after a protein than after a carbohydrate meal. Although older subjects reported subjective discomfort after a morning protein meal, they displayed objective performance impairments after a carbohydrate lunch. Subjects 40 yr of age or older were impaired on a test of sustained selective attention (dichotic shadowing) after consuming a high-carbohydrate lunch. The shadowing impairment after carbohydrate consumption was as pronounced without distraction as with distraction and resulted mostly from increased omission errors. Our findings suggest negative effects on concentration when older subjects consume a high-carbohydrate, low-protein lunch. These negative effects of carbohydrate consumption appear to arise predominantly from lapses of attention rather than from intrusion of distractors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-167
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1982


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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