Why is Trans Fat Bad? New Study Links Trans Fat To Poorer Memory

A new study shows that eating trans fats really can be detrimental to your memory.

Trans fats raise your risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and more.

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On June 16, 2015, the FDA came out with a new announcement: by 2018, all trans fats must be removed from prepared food products on the market.[1] This action to remove trans fats from the “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) list has been a long time coming. And it is for good reason.

Trans fats raise your risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and more. You can find an extensive discussion on the harms of trans fat here. A study published in June added yet another answer to the question, “why is trans fat bad?” by showing that trans fat consumption is associated with worse memory.

People who eat more trans fats perform worse on memory recall tests

We have previously reported on how trans fat levels in the blood are associated with smaller brain volume and a possible increased risk for dementia (read more here). Now, there comes a study showing that eating trans fats really can be detrimental to your memory.

The study, published on June 17, 2015, in PLoS One, analyzed data from over 1,000 participants who took a memory test involving a set of 104 words.[2] The scores on the memory task declined as trans fat consumption increased; with each additional gram of trans fat consumed each day, the participants could remember an average of 0.76 fewer words. This effect translated into an estimated 21 fewer correct responses in the participants who had the largest trans fat consumption (28 g per day).[2]

Why does trans fat affect memory?

Trans fats are known to adversely affect fat metabolism, insulin resistance, inflammation, and cardiac health. These kinds of harmful effects can each impact cognitive function through a variety of mechanisms. Further, trans fats interfere with the production of omega-3 fatty acids.[2]

Whereas trans fats are absolutely unhealthy fats that should be completely avoided, omega-3 fatty acids are a very healthy type of fat vital for many functions in the body, especially brain function. Omega-3s are known to be important to good cognitive function and preventing memory loss. If you eat too much trans fat, omega-3s won’t be able to help protect your brain from cognitive decline.

Avoiding trans fats

With the new FDA ban set to take place in 2018, it should get easier to avoid foods with trans fats. But it is still up to you to make sure you aren’t eating any. And yes, I mean any. It turns out that even small amounts of trans fats can do long lasting and serious harm.

Start off by avoiding fried foods, processed pastries, ready-made desserts, and other industrially produced food products. Read this article to learn about more foods contain trans fats and brands that commonly use trans fats in their products.

Share your experience

Do you avoid trans fats? What tips do you have for replacing trans fat-laden foods with healthier alternatives in your diet? Share your thoughts on the comments section below.


[1] FDA Consumer Updates. 2015 June 16.

[2] PLoS One. 2015 Jun 17;10(6):e0128129.

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UHN Staff

University Health News is produced by the award-winning editors and authors of Belvoir Media Group’s Health & Wellness Division. Headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with editorial offices in Florida, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, … Read More

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