Trans Fat May Weaken Memory in Young Men

   |  Updated: June 19, 2015 17:13 IST

Trans Fat May Weaken Memory in Young Men
Trans fats sneak into most of our favourite foods, from cakes and cookies to fried foods and even dairy products. They are primarily used to increase the shelf life of a product and stabilize the flavours. However, this benefit of theirs can not overshadow the large amount of harm they can do to you. And for that reason, the Food and Drug Association in the United States announced this week that they have given the food industry three years to remove artificial trans fats from the food supply, a long-awaited step that is bound to save thousands the lives.  

(FDA Sets 2018 Deadline to Rid Foods of Trans Fats)

Time and again, health experts have stated that trans fats are the worst type of fat, as they reduce your good cholesterol and increase your bad cholesterol. Excessive consumption of trans fat may make you prone to heart disease and diabetes.

A study conducted by Beatrice A. Golomb, professor of medicine at University of California San Diego School of Medicine in the US, has found that consumption of higher amount of dietary trans fatty acids may lead to poorer memory in young men. The study was published online in the journal PLOS ONE and was previously presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014.

(High time we bid farewell to trans fats!)The researchers evaluated data from 1,018 men and women, ages 20 to 85, who were asked to complete a dietary survey and memory test involving word recall. The participants were sequentially shown a set of 104 cards, each bearing a word. 82 of the cards displayed words shown for the first time and 22 cards had been displayed previously. Participants had to state whether each word was presented for the first time or recurrent (presented previously).

It was found that on an average, men aged 45 and younger recalled 86 words. However, for each additional gram of dietary trans fatty acids (dTFA) consumed daily, performance dropped by 0.76 words. This translates to an expected 12 fewer words recalled by young men with dTFA intake levels matching the highest observed in the study, compared to otherwise similar men consuming no trans fats. An association of dTFA to word memory was not observed in older populations.

"Trans fats were most strongly linked to worse memory in men during their high productivity years," said lead author Beatrice Golomb, professor of medicine at University of California San Diego School of Medicine in the US, "Trans fat consumption has previously shown adverse associations to behaviour and mood -- other pillars of brain function. However, to our knowledge a relation to memory or cognition had not been shown."

(What will food without trans fats taste like? Just the same)

Golomb explains, "Foods have different effects on oxidative stress and cell energy. In this study, we looked at whether trans fats, which are pro-oxidant and linked adversely to cell energy, might show the opposite effect. And they did. Oxidative stress is a cell-damaging process that has been linked to heart disease and cancer. Trans fat appears to work as a pro-oxidant which means that its effects are opposite to the positive effects of an antioxidant. Prior research by the same team shows that chocolate, which is a valuable source of antioxidants, may help in improving memory.

After adjusting for age, exercise, education, ethnicity and mood, the link between higher dTFA and poorer memory was maintained in men 45 and younger. The research was primarily focussed on number of men and women in the same age group, which was too small to draw conclusions about whether the link held true for them as well.

(Eat right amount of good fat to stay healthy)

"As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people," Golomb said.

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