Avoid Consuming Trans Fats to Protect Your Memory

Trans fat consumption has been associated with higher body weight, heart disease and even depression. A new study has strongly linked trans fats to worse memory in young and middle-aged men.

Ariba Khaliq
Exercise & FitnessWritten by: Ariba KhaliqPublished at: Mar 14, 2018
Avoid Consuming Trans Fats to Protect Your Memory

You know it’s bad for your waistline but experts are now warning that trans fat mars our ability to remember. When 1, 000 healthy men were tested in a word memory quiz by University of California researchers, the ones who ate the most trans fat did the worst. Trans fat is found in deep fried foods, frozen foods, and processed eatables.

Controlling factors like age, education, ethnicity, and mental health did not affect these results. The study found that men with the highest quantity of trans fats in their diet suffered as much as 10 percent decline in the words they could remember.

How Trans Fats are Bad

Trans fats are a kind of dietary fat that raises LDL (bad cholesterol) and decrease levels of HDL (good cholesterol). Trans fat is made when a liquid vegetable oil is changed into solid fat. It’s usually added to processed foods to make them tastier and to keep the food stay fresh longer.

Low levels of trans fats are naturally present in milk and meat products but artificially created trans fats like hydrogenated oils are commonly used in junk foods. Trans fats are added to increase the shelf life of foods. Trans fat consumption has been associated with higher body weight, heart disease and even depression.

“Trans fats were most strongly linked to worse memory in young and middle-aged men, during their working and career-building years,” lead author, Dr. Beatrice Golomb, said in a statement.

“From a health standpoint, trans fat consumption has been linked to higher body weight, more aggression and heart disease. As I tell patients, while trans fat increases the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people.”

The study also adds to the growing body of evidence that what we eat affects how we think, said Dr. Patrick T. O'Gara, president of the American College of Cardiology. "The supply of nutrients in blood to the brain can actually affect its function."

Although the study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect and it's not entirely clear why eating trans fat would cause memory loss, several experts think the finding makes sense.

"These artificial fats penetrate every cell in the body and can disrupt basic cell functions," said Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in the research.

Ban on Trans Fats

U.S. is proposing a spanning ban on trans fat in processed foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said last year that it will force the food industry to gradually end trans fat in a proposed policy. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg believes that 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths can be prevented each year through this ban.

The FDA said that trans fat is still found in these processed foods:

  • crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
  • snack foods (such as microwave popcorn)
  • frozen pizza
  • vegetable shortenings and stick margarine
  • coffee creamers
  • refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
  • ready-to-use frostings
  • noodles, puddings, liquid coffee whiteners and other frozen goods

Trans fat in natural foods is unlike the manufactured trans fat and doesn’t increase the risk of heart disease.

Image Source: Getty

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