Trans fats are fatty acids that are normally found in trace amounts in some animal products; however, the majority that is our concern these days is found in partially hydrogenated oils. In simple terms, partial hydrogenation is the transformation of a vegetable oil (liquid) into a semi-solid state. This semi-solid is more stable in the food processing industry; that is, it can tolerate higher temperatures for frying, and it increases the shelf-life of the product. That is why it is attractive in the production of goods such as cookies and chips. Several studies have already linked trans fats to increased levels of LDL-c (the bad cholesterol), reduced levels of HDL-c ( the good cholesterol) and an elevated risk of coronary heart disease. However, the latest research published in Neurology journal linked a high amount of trans fats in the diet to a certain type of brain shrinkage linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The study did not rely on unspecific food questionnaires rather it measured a wide range of nutrient levels in the blood of 104 participants with an average age of 87. The participants who had high levels of trans-fatty acids in their blood scored lower on memory and thinking tests whereas those with high levels of vitamins, namely B,C,D, E and omega-3 fatty acids scored higher on the same tests.
The researchers also scanned the brains of 42 participants and found that participants with higher levels of vitamins and omega-3 had larger brains compared to a brain shrinkage in those who had higher levels of trans fats.
So forget about the drive thru and read the food labels well! Skip any product that has trans fats or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fish. Your heart and brain will thank you!
Neurology. “Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging.” G.L. Bowman et al.