Trans fats are commonly used in processed foods to improve taste, texture, and shelf life. Artificial trans fats are found in partially hydrogenated oils and in other ingredients, such as refined oils, emulsifiers, flavors and colors. Even those processed foods that say zero trans fats may contain trans fats - due to a loophole in labeling laws (if it has less than .5 grams per serving, then it can be rounded down to zero - thus allowing the incorrect claim of zero trans fats). Eating a variety of processed foods, each containing a little trans fats, easily adds up to eating a significant amount daily.Trans fats in the diet have long been linked to cardiovascular disease, artherosclerosis, obesity, oxidative stress, and inflammation, but now research finds that it is linked to a poorer memory in middle-aged men under the age of 45. From Science Daily:
Higher consumption of dietary trans fatty acids (dTFA), commonly used in processed foods to improve taste, texture and durability, has been linked to worsened memory function in men 45 years old and younger, according to a study.
Researchers evaluated data from 1,018 men and women who were asked to complete a dietary survey and memory test involving word recall. On average, men aged 45 and younger recalled 86 words; however, for each additional gram of trans fats 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.
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 study focused predominantly on men because of a small number of women in this age group. However, including women in the analysis did not change the finding, said Golomb. An association of dTFA to word memory was not observed in older populations. Golomb said this is likely due to dietary effects showing more clearly in younger adults. Insults and injuries to the brain accrue with age and add variability to memory scores that can swamp ability to detect diet effects.
Trans fatty acids have been linked to negative effects on lipid profiles, metabolic function, insulin resistance, inflammation and cardiac and general health. In 2013, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued a preliminary determination that trans fats were no longer generally recognized as safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 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.