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Skip trans fat for good memory, says study

Posted:  Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Most of us have experienced that sticky situation when the name of an acquaintance is hard to remember. Such experiences are hardly helpful in one’s professional life. A group of researchers have found the culprit for memory loss in working-age men - high trans fat consumption in the diet!

Presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2014, the research found that healthy men with high consumption of trans fat fared poorly on a word memory test. The strength of this association remained even after factors like age, education, ethnicity and depression were taken into account.

The researchers evaluated adults who had not been diagnosed with heart disease, including men aged 20 or older and postmenopausal women, and estimated their trans fat consumption from a filled dietary questionnaire. To assess memory, the researchers presented a series of 104 cards showing words to the participants and asked them to state whether each word was new or a word duplicated from a prior card.

The findings were striking:

•   Men aged <45 years and reporting high trans fat consumption had worse memory test performance. This association lingered even after considering significant factors like age, education, ethnicity and depression.

•   The intake of each additional gram of trans fat a day was associated with an estimated 0.76 fewer words correctly recalled.

•   This meant that participants eating the highest amounts of trans fat could recall an estimated 11 fewer words (a more than 10% reduction in words remembered) compared to adults who ate the least trans fat (the average number of words correctly recalled was 86).

Trans fats are industrially produced to turn liquid oils into solids at room temperature and thus increase the product shelf life. They are found in products like margarines, fast foods, baked goods, snack foods, frozen pizza, coffee creamers and some refrigerated doughs.

Speaking about the study, lead researcher Beatrice A. Golomb said, “Trans fats were most strongly linked to worse memory, in young and middle-aged men, during their working and career-building years.”

From a health point of view, trans fats have been implicated in heart disease and higher body weight. As the link between trans fat and memory has now been unearthed, it is all the more necessary to read nutrition labels and make a wise choice.

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