Doughnuts and Dementia: Symptoms of Brain Damage Caused By Eating Trans Fats

When it comes to junk food, Americans are prone to saying, “All good things in moderation.” But taking that approach with trans fats has been shown to cause brain damage, even when trans fats are consumed in very small amounts. Dipping into that box of doughnuts or a bucket of fried chicken may not seem like a big deal, but make no mistake, the impact of trans fats on the human body is significant. In fact, it’s so significant that it can actually increase the chances of developing memory loss and other dementia symptoms and may even lead to full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.

Trans Fats Shrink the Brain and Increase Dementia Risk

A recent study, published in the medical journal Neurology, found a diet high in trans fats shrinks the brain and  increases a person’s risk of developing dementia symptoms. Trans fats are found in many fast foods, processed foods, packaged foods, and spreads. They can be identified in a list of ingredients as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.[1]

Even Small Amounts of Trans Fats are Damaging

Although a few studies in the past have examined the link between brain health and trans fats, this study was the first to measure blood levels of trans fats in relation to brain volume using MRI brain scans. The researchers’ sobering observation was that even when blood levels of trans fats were not that high they still caused brain damage.

Trans fats are structurally closer to plastic than food. Researchers suggest trans fats damage the brain by replacing healthy fats in the brain’s cell membranes. About 60 percent of the brain is made up of fat, coming from fats in the diet. These fats make up much of cell membranes, brain tissue, and myelin sheaths, and determine the function and integrity of the brain.

When a person eats trans fats, they replace healthy fats in the process. As a result, the brain’s cells can’t communicate well with one another. In turn, the inability to communicate causes cells to degenerate overall brain volume shrinks, and memory and cognition suffer. Trans fats also compromise brain health by clogging veins and arteries. This constricts the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, which further promotes degeneration of brain cells

Top 10 Foods with Trans Fats:

The following foods are the top 10 when it comes to trans fat content:

  • Margarine and non-butter spreads
  • Many packaged foods, such as cake mixes and baking mixes
  • Packaged soups and soup cups
  • Fast food, including fries, fried chicken, pies and other deep-fried foods
  • Many frozen convenience foods, such as pies, pot pies, pizzas, and breaded fish sticks
  • Many baked goods, including donuts, cookies, cakes, and pies
  • Chips and crackers, even reduced-fat varieties
  • Many breakfast cereals and energy bars
  • Packaged cookies and candy, especially gummy bears and jelly beans
  • Many toppings, dips, gravy mixes, nondairy creamers, and salad dressings[2]

As a good rule of thumb, if you are eating out or eating boxed or packaged food, know you are likely eating foods that contain trans fats.

Vitamins and Omega-3s Protect the Brain

In today’s society, it’s difficult to completely avoid trans fats, especially if you eat out. The good news is that researchers found study participants who ate diets high in vitamins B, C, D, and E and omega 3 fatty acids were found to have larger, healthier brains than their junk-food eating peers, and to consistently score
better on mental performance tests. These nutrients are found in vegetables, fruits, fish, and raw nuts and seeds.

If you’re looking to protect your brain and reduce your risk of developing memory loss and other dementia symptoms, try to avoid processed foods and focus on a whole-foods diet that includes these beneficial nutrients. And if you do eat out, be sure to take a multivitamin/multi-mineral and omega-3 supplement to protect your brain. You can purchase these supplements at your local health food store or online. To learn more about these and other important nutrients, download our free report, Natural Health 101: Living a Healthy Lifestyle.


[1] “Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging. Neurology. December 28, 2011. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182436598.

[2] WebMD.

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