New data on dietary trans-fatty acids (dTFA) indicate that they could be contributing to aggressive, irrational behavior, though dTFA are primarily synthetic compounds that have been introduced only recently.
In one timely peer-reviewed study by researchers from the University of California, San Diego, “dTFA were strongly significantly associated with greater aggression, with dTFA more consistently predictive than other assessed aggression predictors.” What’s more, dTFA have been shown to block production of omega-3 fatty acids, which have experimentally shown to inhibit aggressive behavior, researchers say.
The results came from a study of 945 adult men and women from over five years (1999-2004) who were not on lipid medications, and were without LDL-cholesterol extremes, diabetes, HIV, cancer or heart disease, a summary of the results said.
“This study provides the first evidence linking dTFA with behavioral irritability and aggression,” said the summary.
“Our results may have relevance to public policy determinations regarding dietary trans-fats,” the researchers said. “If the association between trans-fats and aggressive behavior proves to be causal, this adds further rationale to recommendations to avoid eating trans fats, or including them in foods provided at institutions like schools and prisons, since the detrimental effects of trans fats may extend beyond the person who consumes them to affect others.”
History of ill effects
Dietary trans-fats, which are used widely by the food industry, are largely products of hydrogenation, “a chemical process that makes (unsaturated) oils solid at room temperature,” said the summary. They have been linked to a number of other health problems, including cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of a stroke, especially in women.
Omega-3 fatty acids, by comparison, have been found to be extremely beneficial. Found largely in fish, the omega 3 acids are thought to decrease aging of the brain, while thought to improve overall brain function.
“People with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had lower brain volumes that were equivalent to about two years of structural brain aging,” said Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, of the Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Division of Geriatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, in discussing the results of a recent study on the effects of omega-3.
People who have a higher intake of omega-3 have fewer incidents of heart disease, stroke and dementia.
Tan’s study found that people whose level of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), one of the omega-3 fatty acids, were in the bottom 25 percent of some 1,575 older people (average age 67 and free of dementia) had lower brain functions than people with higher levels of DHA.
Also, people with lower DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids scored lower on tests of visual memory, processing, and abstract thinking.
Dr. Frank Sacks, professor of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, says hsph.harvard.edu
He acknowledged that existing research shows omega-3 fatty acids help protect against cardiovascular diseases, but he says today’s research shows other promising effects of the omega-3.
“New studies are identifying potential benefits for a wide range of conditions including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis,” he says.
Sacks recommends taking a 500-mg omega-3 supplement daily if you don’t get enough of the fatty acid in your foods. Some of the best omega-3 foods include fish, nuts and some oils like soy and olive oils.
Considering the new data on dTFA, maybe there is something to the so-called “Twinkies defense.”
J. D. Heyes
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