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Trans Fats May Harm Memory, Too

Sep. 28, 2015|744 views
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Trans fatty acids are the original “Frankenfood”. Cobbled together not by nature, but in a laboratory, they were once hailed as a triumph of modern chemistry. Because they are less prone to spoilage—and they’re cheaper to use than natural alternatives, such as palm oil—food makers were quick to trumpet these artificial fats as alternatives to butter or other natural fats. They were promoted for frying, baking, and other uses. Consumers eagerly embraced them, and they quickly made their way into everything from french fries and packaged cupcakes, to margarine and shortening.

But by the end of the 20th century, when coronary heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes were all increasingly common—and heart disease was the number one killer, bar none, around the world—it finally became clear that trans fatty acids are far from benign. In fact, it’s now undeniable that these synthetic “foods” are poison. Not like arsenic, perhaps. They don’t kill you outright. At least not quickly. But if the definition of “poison” is a substance that causes illness, disease, or even death, then trans fatty acids definitely fit the bill.

Over time, and in direct proportion to the amount consumed, they cause damage to the body’s blood vessels consistent with potentially fatal coronary heart disease. There’s even evidence that they encourage the heart to become enlarged. As I reported yesterday, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been dragging its feet, only forcing food makers to list specific amounts of trans fats on food labels beginning in the early 2000s. And only now are they acting to force the complete removal of these toxins from the food supply—although manufacturers still have up to three years to comply.

Even now, food labels can claim “0 g. trans fats” when there’s actually up to 0.5 g. of trans fats per serving. That’s troubling, because there appears to be no safe intake level for this substance. To keep your family safe, look for the presence of “partially hydrogenated fats” on food labels. This is another name for trans fats.

The eventual near-total ban is welcome news. Since the early 2000s Americans’ consumption of trans fats has plummeted by 78%, according to FDA. That’s also welcome news. But we can do better. We’ll never know how many cases of heart disease are directly attributable to these toxins, but there’s another condition to worry about, too. A new study has concluded that trans fats may also interfere with memory. It’s still not clear, however, if they harm memory by affecting the brain and nervous system directly, or through reduced blood flow due to already recognized harmful effects on blood vessels. Either way, it’s clear that these manmade “foods” have no business in our food supply. I say “good riddance” to these toxic, manmade substances. The tragic story of trans fats should serve as a cautionary tale, warning future generations about the perils of “foods” designed in a laboratory.

Golomb BA. Bui AK. A Fat to Forget: Trans Fat Consumption and Memory. June 17, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128129. Retrieved June 17, 2015 from:


Tags:  healthy fats, health tips, prevention