Trans fats have long been labeled some of the most unhealthy things one could eat. Health experts have blamed them for everything from obesity, to high cholesterol, and even heart disease.
Their negative health effects are so severe that earlier this week the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) was led to announce that they will be banning them in the United States three (3) years from now.
Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s acting commissioner, gave a statement saying that “The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans. This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year”.
But a new study published earlier this week, on Wednesday (June 17, 2015), in the journal PLOS One, now reveals that trans fats also damage the brain, especially for younger men under the age of 45, who more often than not have a diet rich in trans fats.
Dr. Beatrice A. Golomb, lead author and professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, and her team, stress that eating any quantity of trans fats has devastating effects on your memory.
It’s an alarming finding as the ban is still far away and many of the convenient foods that both taste good and are quick to prepare (microwave dinners, fast food burgers, potato chips, baked goods, even some margarines), typically contain these dangerous fats. They are as wide spread as they are because they improve the shelf-life of produces.
For their study, the researchers looked at the diets of 1.018 perfectly healthy men and women while they were testing cholesterol-lowering drugs. The subjects were asked to give detailed information on what foods they ate and how their meals were prepared. The researchers then calculated the amount of trans fats that they were each consuming based on their answers.
The next step was to have the subjects take part in word recall test in order to assess their memory. They were shown two (2) sets of cards. He first one had 104 words. The second one only kept 22 words from the first set and changed the rest. Subjects were asked to identify which of the words were found in both sets, and which were not.
The results showed that the subjects who consumed the highest amounts of trans fats also performed the poorest in the memory test, labeling most of the words incorrectly. This statistic was even worse for younger subjects than it was for older subjects.
On average, men aged 45 and younger were able to remember 86 words. But the researchers stress that for every additional one gram of trans fats intake per day, they recalled 0.76 less words.
Only a few women were included in the study, but the authors say that they noticed the same patterns in female subjects as well.
Older subjects, over the age of 45, did not seem to experience memory problems due to consuming trans fats. The working theory is that these subjects were already experiencing brain famage due to other factors such as poor sleeping patterns or a lifetime of traumatic injuries.
Professor Golomb gave a statement saying that the results of the study match up with those of previous studies – trans fats affect brain function, mood and behavior. Additionally, researches now know that they also impair cell energy and oxidative stress.
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