Are trans fats associated with memory impairment?

Trans fatty acid isomers are known to be a potentially harmful component of foods that more people are consuming today. They are obtained by heating vegetable oils in liquid form to a very high temperature in the presence of catalysts and hydrogen.

The production process is called hydrogenation, which is why trans isomers are more popular with the general public as trans or hydrogenated fats.

Consumption of foods that contain these compounds is associated with an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease and obesity and also with aggressive behavior.

Trans fats are found in such foods as packaged bakery products, some fats and margarines, and also in foods that are available in fast food restaurants, so-called “fast food”.

The damaging effect of trans isomers is thought to be related to their pro-oxidant activity and disturbances of cellular energy metabolism.

At the annual scientific conference of the American Heart Association (AKA) held in mid-November 2014, the results of a study were presented, which found another reason to avoid consumption of trans isomers of fatty acids.

Conducted with financial support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the US, it showed that intake of higher amounts of trans isomers was associated with impaired word recall in men of working age.

Scientists have found that with an increase of 1 gram of trans fatty acids in the diet, there is a decrease in the number of words that a person remembers.

This in people with the highest consumption of trans fats corresponded to a reduction of an average of 11 vocabulary words compared to people who did not consume foods containing hydrogenated fatty acids.

1018 people participated in the discussed analysis, among whom men were 20 years old and older /n=694/ and postmenopausal women who did not initially suffer from coronary heart disease.

Participants were involved in clinical trials of a drug with potentially teratogenic properties, that is, toxic, which determined the inclusion of only women who had lost their reproductive function due to age or due to surgical intervention.

Subsequently, women were excluded from the analysis, as there were no representatives of the younger adult groups among them, but even if they had remained, this would not have changed the results obtained.

The levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, that is, the bad cholesterol, fluctuated in the range of 115-190 mg. per deciliter, and the average blood sugar levels in the control group did not exceed 142 mg. per deciliter.

The consumption of trans isomers of each of the participants was determined using a questionnaire assessing the frequency of consumption of various foods. A repeated word test was used to assess memory for words.

Consumption of trans fatty acids was tracked between 1999 and 2004

This is the period that immediately preceded the emergence of legislative requirements to oblige manufacturers to include data on the content of trans fats on the food product packaging label.

For the analysis of the relationship between fat consumption and verbal memory, a regression method with age stratification of 45 years was used, that is, the age of all participants was equated to 45 years.

As a result, an interaction was found between age and consumption of trans isomers /P = 0.025/, which determined the need for stratification.

Consumption of food sources of trans fat was associated with memory only in the group of men aged 20 to 45.

In this group, for every gram of trans fatty acid isomers in the serving, there was a decrease in the number of words each participant was able to recall by 0.76 /P=0.006/.

On average, volunteers recalled 86 words and those who consumed the most trans fat foods were able to recall 11-12 fewer words.

After systolic blood pressure levels, waist circumference, and body mass index were also taken into account, this relationship no longer stood out as strongly, but this did not apply to measures of lipid and glycemic metabolism.

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