Dump the Trans Fat to Improve Memory?

High trans fat consumption is linked to poor memory among middle-aged men, according to research presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Session 2014.

High trans fat consumption is linked to poor memory among middle-aged men, according to research presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Session 2014.

Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, lead author and professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego and colleague, Alexis K. Bui, BS, observed a total of 1,018 healthy individuals never diagnosed with heart disease. While mainly focusing on men (694), the researchers also included postmenopausal women.

The participants were required to complete a dietary questionnaire estimating their trans fat consumption. To assess memory; however, Golomb and Bui administered a word memory test involving 104 cards. Participants were asked whether each word was a new addition or duplicated from the prior card.

Results found that among men, 45 and below, who consumed the most trans fats performed significantly worse on the memory test. However, the strength of the association remained even after considering age, education, ethnicity, and depression.

Also, each additional gram a day of trans fats consumed was associated with approximately 0.76 fewer words correctly recalled. Furthermore, those with the highest trans fat intake experienced recalling an estimated 11 fewer words compared to adults who consumed the least trans fat — the average number of words correctly recalled was 86.

Golomb said in an interview, “Trans fats were most strongly linked to worse memory, in young and middle-aged men, during their working and career-building years. From a health standpoint, trans fat consumption has been linked to higher body weight, more aggression, and heart disease. As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people.”

“Foods have different effects on oxidative stress and cell energy,” explained Golomb.

In a prior study, she and colleagues found chocolate, rich in antioxidants and positively impacting cell energy, was associated with improved word memory in young to middle-aged adults.

Therefore, Golomb specifically wanted to focus this study on whether trans fats, pro-oxidant and adversely linked to cell energy, might exhibit an opposite effect, which she proved correct.

Future studies need to be administered to determine the effect on women below 45 years.

The Food and Drug Administration is taking further steps to reduce the amount of artificial trans fats in the US food supply.