Trans fatty acids are the worst type of fats. Sometimes called “FrankenFats,” they’ve been linked to numerous diseases, ranging from cancer to heart disease to diabetes. They’re known to drive up cholesterol levels, contribute to insulin resistance and promote weight gain, among many other things.
Recent studies also show that trans fats can harm your brain. In one study, which appeared in the journal Neurology, Japanese researchers found that trans fats increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Trans fats increase dementia risk by up to 75 percent
The researchers tracked more than 1,600 Japanese men and women aged 60 and above without dementia over the course of a decade. During the follow-up, 247 of them were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, while 102 had vascular dementia, a condition caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.
Those with the highest levels of trans fats in their blood were found to be 52 to 75 percent more likely to develop dementia than people with the lowest levels of trans fats. This was the case even after adjusting for dietary and lifestyle factors, such as total calorie intake and consumption of other types of fats.
The researchers identified sweet pastries as the leading source of trans fats, followed by margarine, candies, croissants, caramels, non-dairy creamers, ice cream and rice crackers. (Related: Trans-Fats and the American Diet.)
The researchers concluded that high trans fat levels in the blood could be a potential risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s. They recommended reducing the use of trans fats in foods to help prevent degenerative brain disorders.
Artificial trans fats are banned but some foods may still contain them
Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat and come in both natural and artificial forms. Natural trans fats are found in meat and dairy from ruminant animals like cattle, sheep and goats. Moderate intake of these fats is not harmful.
On the other hand, artificial trans fats are dangerous to your health. They are produced by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to form a semi-solid product known as partially hydrogenated oil. The Food and Drug Administration determined in 2015 that artificial trans fats are unsafe to eat and banned them entirely in 2018.
However, foods manufactured before the ban still contain trans fats and may remain in the market for years. Beware of the following foods: (h/t to Healthline.com)
- Vegetable shortening — This food product is a type of fat that is solid at room temperature. To find out if shortening contains trans fats, look for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredients list. Anything with that oil contains trans fats.
- Microwavable popcorn — Trans fats are present in some varieties of microwavable popcorn. As with shortening, choose brands and flavors that do not use partially hydrogenated oil.
- Margarine and vegetable oil — Most brands of margarine are high in trans fats because margarine is typically produced using partially hydrogenated oil. Watch out for some non-hydrogenated vegetable oils because these may also contain trans fat.
- Fried fast foods — Fried chicken, battered fish, hamburgers, french fries and fried noodles are rich in trans fats because they’re typically cooked using vegetable oil at high temperatures. High heat increases the trans fat content of oils.
- Pastries — Baked goods are usually made with vegetable shortening or margarine.
- Non-dairy coffee creamers — The main ingredients in many non-dairy coffee creamers are sugar and oil.
Eating foods rich in trans fats can increase your risk of a wide range of diseases, from Alzheimer’s to cardiovascular disease. Avoid eating the above-mentioned foods and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet.
Learn more about diseases linked to trans fats at JunkFood.news.