Trans Fat: Our Memory May Be Hurt By Certain Foods

First Posted: Jun 18, 2015 07:44 PM EDT

New findings published in PLOS One reveal that eating trans fat could also be hurting our memory.

Researchers at the University of California-San Diego found that higher consumption of dietary trans fatty acids (dTFA) commonly used in processed foods to improve taste, texture and durability, could dramatically worsen memory function in men 45 years and older.

For the study, the researchers examined data from more than 1,000 people who were asked to complete a dietary survey and memory test in which they had to recall certain words. On average, men aged 45 and younger did not struggle much, recalling 86 percent of the words. However, for those who consumed an additional gram of trans fat daily, their performance dropped by 0.76 words; this translates to an expected 12 fewer words recalled by men with dTFA intake levels matching the highest in the study when compared to otherwise similar men who consumed relatively no trans fat.

Findings showed not an exact association of dTFA to word memory, nor via this observation in older populations. However, researchers said they believe that this may be due to certain dietary effects that show more clearly in young adults and how certain insults or injuries to the brain can heal more quickly with age and add variability to memory scores that can also swamp the ability of the brain to detect diet effects.

Reducing dTFA consumption could prevent 10,000 to 20,000 heart attacks and 3,000 to 7,000 coronary heart disease deaths per year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people," lead study author Beatrice A. Golomb, concluded in a statement.

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