The consumption of trans fatty acids, used in processed foods to improve their taste, texture and durability, has been linked to worsened memory function by a new study from the San Diego School of Medicine
You have probably heard trans fats touted as nutritional public enemy number one for their adverse effects on heart health. Now, new research has found that a diet high in trans-fat laden foods – which include donuts, some margarines and microwaved popcorn as well as processed foods and takeaways – can affect memory.
for each gram of trans fats eaten per day 12 to 21 fewer words were recalled
The new study, which included more than 1000 men and women under the age of 45 who completed a dietary survey and recall test found that for each gram of trans fats eaten per day 12 to 21 fewer words were recalled, out of an average score of 86 from 104 flashcards.
Lead author Dr Beatrice Golomb said: ‘trans fats were most strongly linked to worse memory in men during their high productivity years.’
Trans fat foods last longer on the shop shelves- and in our bodies.
The primary focus of the researchers was on 645 healthy young men, as women capable of becoming pregnant were excluded, however Dr. Golomb, Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, where the research was conducted, said the findings did not differ materially when they included women.
So what are trans fats? Trans fatty acids are man-made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil to make it more solid, but can naturally transform in cow’s milk and in vegetable fats. They are something we may consume without even realising, but are found particularly in foods like frozen pizzas, biscuits, and microwave popcorn.
Manufacturers like to use trans fats because they are semi-solid at room temperature and cheaper than using butter or a fat such as coconut oil or lard. This means they last longer on the shop shelves- and in our bodies. They are difficult for us to digest and give us little energy fuel.
Besides raising ‘bad’ cholesterol, contributing to heart disease, and causing inflammation, trans fats might also inhibit the body’s production of omega 3 fatty acids, which play a crucial role in brain function, Golomb said. ‘The findings presented here add evidence for adverse associations to a third key prong of brain function—cognition.’ he said.
The study was published on PLoS One just two days after federal regulators in the USA ruled that all companies must remove all trans fats from products as they are no longer ‘generally recognized as safe’ to consume.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! It has previously been shown that more frequent consumption of chocolate, rich in antioxidants, improves mitochondrial biogenesis – which is linked to better memory performance, particularly for under 45 year-olds. That’s something to remember every time you reach for the Galaxy bar.
READ MORE: The healthy fat guide
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