It’s no secret that eating junk foods contributes to weight gain and can lead to health complications, but new information about dietary trans fats (dTFA) — which exist in most junk foods — shows that consumption of such items is also destroying people’s minds. Specifically, memory function among men aged younger than 45 years has been shown to worsen with consumption of foods loaded with dietary trans fats.(1)
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, discovered that men falling within the aforementioned age bracket were able to recall 86 words during a word recall test. However, for every additional gram of trans fats eaten every day, their recall fell by 0.76 words compared to men who did not consume trans fats. In simpler terms, what this boils down to is that men who had the highest levels of dTFA remembered 12 fewer words than those who did not eat trans fats.(1)
Problematic for people who need to focus on productivity, workplace performance
Experts note that the age impacted unfortunately involves men who are typically in the midst of their career, where focus and effectiveness in the workplace is of utmost importance. “Trans fats were most strongly linked to worse memory in men during their high productivity years,” said Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, and lead author of the study.(1)
While women were involved in the study, and analyses involving them were similar to those of the men, “women were too few in number to draw separate conclusions.” Therefore, the findings home in on men, who make up half of the population.(1,2)
The researchers also noted that this study, which was published in PLOS ONE, was among the first of its kind. “Trans fat consumption has previously shown adverse associations to behavior and mood—other pillars of brain function,” Golomb said. “However, to our knowledge a relation to memory or cognition had not been shown.”(1)
Physical, mental benefits of eliminating trans fats from diet
As stated in PLOS ONE, the benefits of removing trans fats from diets are plenty:
These findings, in which greater dTFA consumption is linked to worse word memory in adults during years of high productivity, adults [younger than 45], add to evidence for unfavorable health correlates of trans fat consumption. They extend findings to a third pillar of central nervous system function, cognition—complementing evidence for adverse dTFA relations to behavior (aggression/irritability) and mood.
Through the years, there’s been a rise in awareness regarding the detrimental health aspects of junk food consumption. Everything from obesity and inflammation to insulin resistance and an increased risk for cardiac problems is linked to eating the likes of potato chips, donuts and vending machine snacks. While lack of exercise and stress are also factors that lead to the onset or worsening of such health problems, it’s clear that the excessive amounts of sugary foods laden with unpronounceable additives and loads of trans fats have fallen under the watchful eye of health-minded people.
Today, it’s not uncommon for restaurant chains and food corporations to voluntarily announce plans to create healthier menus and eliminate harmful ingredients.
Thankfully, a large-scale effort to get trans fats out of processed foods is in place
In 2013, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a preliminary announcement about trans fats, saying they’re not generally recognized as safe anymore. Flash forward to recent news this year in which the FDA came down even harder on such fats, saying that food makers have three years to stop using trans fats. Microwave popcorn, pie crusts and frostings are just a few examples of foods that would need to eliminate them.(1,3)
These fats are used to enhance flavoring, prolong shelf life and maintain a product’s appearance. However, the eye and taste appeal simply isn’t worth the possible health consequences. “As I tell patients,” said Golomb, “while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people.”(1)