HealthDay News — Men who consumed large amounts of trans fats showed a significantly reduced ability to recall words during a memory test, according to findings being presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, held from Nov. 15 to 19 in Chicago.
Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Diego, and colleagues studied adults who had not been diagnosed with heart disease, including approximately 1,000 men aged 20 or older. Participants completed a dietary questionnaire, from which the investigators estimated their trans fat consumption. To assess memory, researchers presented participants with a series of 104 cards with a word on each. Participants had to state whether each word was new or had already appeared on a prior card.
The researchers found that among men younger than 45, those who ate more trans fats showed notably worse performance on the word memory test, even after taking into account factors such as age, education, ethnicity, and depression. Each additional gram a day of trans fats consumed was associated with an estimated 0.76 fewer words correctly recalled.
Golomb hypothesizes that the oxidizing effects of trans fats may cause brain cells important to memory to die off. Oxidative stress has been associated with diseases such as heart disease and cancer. At the same time, the energy-sapping effects of the trans fats may make brain cells more sluggish and less responsive, she added. “When cells don’t get enough energy, they’re essentially taken off line,” Golomb told HealthDay.