Trans Fat Foods Negatively Impact Memory

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We already know that trans fats are the ultimate bad fat. They raise your LDL or bad cholesterol and decrease your HDL or good cholesterol. That’s why this partially hydrogenated nightmare does such a number on your heart health. But new research takes it a step further, finding that trans fat foods also impact your brain.

Trans fat foods may actually harm your memory. In a new study, men under 45 who ate the most trans fats had the worst memories. Researchers at UC San Francisco followed 1,000 healthy men who ate varying amounts of trans fats. Those who consumed the most did the worst job on a word recall test.

“People were presented with a series of cards with words on them, and they had to decide if they were repeats, or newly-presented words,” said lead researcher Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, to WebMD. “Each additional gram of trans fat consumed per day was associated with .76 fewer words recalled.”

The highest amount of trans fat foods consumed were about 15 grams per day and it contributed to the most dramatic drop in memory recall.

“That would be associated with 11 to 12 fewer words recalled,” Golomb says, or about a 10 percent drop.

Researchers think that trans fats may actually degrade cells and reduce blood flow to the part of the brain associated with memory. In other research, Golomb found that chocolate actually increased memory.

Just a quick reminder of what trans fats are and more importantly how to avoid them. Trans fats are formed from an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil. It’s less likely to spoil and it has a longer shelf life. Trans fats are often found in packaged baked goods, fried foods, refrigerator dough, creamer and margarine.

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Image: tommy chheng

Sara Novak
Sara Novak

Sara Novak is an independent journalist who reports on health, science, yoga, and travel. She was a writer for Discovery Communications from 2006-2013 and her work has been featured on Discovery Health, Popular Science, TLC, Animal Planet, What to Expect, TreeHugger, and many more. She’s also a certified yoga teacher. When she's not churning away on her laptop, she can be found atop her yoga mat or walking the beach with her husband, baby boy, and two lovable cocker spaniels.