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Some Fats Might Harm Your Memory

Some Fats Might Harm Your Memory

Nov. 18, 2014 — Men under 45 years old who eat lots of trans fats may be hurting their memory, according to a new study released Tuesday.

Researchers at UC San Francisco followed 1,000 healthy men who ate various amounts of trans fats, and they found that the men in that age range who ate the most did the worst on a word recall test.

“People were presented with a series of cards with words on them, and they had to decide if they were repeats, or newly-presented words,” says Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, the lead researcher. “Each additional gram of trans fat consumed per day was associated with .76 fewer words recalled.”

That might not sound like a lot, but the highest trans-fat eaters in the study took in about 15 grams per day, and that’s a sizeable drop in memory.

“That would be associated with 11 to 12 fewer words recalled,” Golomb says, or about a 10% drop.

Golomb and her group of researchers believe the memory loss is due to trans fats’ effect on cells, which can reduce blood flow to the most important parts of the brain. Its effect is also linked to a higher rate of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions meeting this week in Chicago.

“I put things you eat into two categories: Foods and anti-foods,” Golomb says. “Foods are the things that support the health and function of cells, and anti-foods adversely affect that. Trans fats fall into that anti-food category.”

Previous findings from Golomb’s group have included studies that found chocolate boosted word recall, and conversely, that trans fats influenced mood and behavior, making people more aggressive and depressed.

Second Opinion

Ralph Sacco, MD, chairman of the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami School of Medicine, says the findings underscore a known link between the heart and the brain.

“These findings are not that surprising, given that we know there are many connections between cardiovascular disease and brain health,” Sacco says.

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