We’ve been hearing for a long time that the nasty trans fats that the food industry relies on to increase its revenues is harming consumers by raising levels of low-density (bad) cholesterol and reducing levels of high-density (good) cholesterol and influencing other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. You can add another harm to that list: Brain Damage.

The Study

A study by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and published in the journal Neurology showed that elderly people with diets containing large amounts of trans fats are more likely to show signs of a specific type of brain shrinkage that is associated with Alzheimer disease.

The researchers looked at the levels of a wide range of nutrients in the blood of study participants (all of whom were in their mid-to-late 80s, but healthy with few known risk factors for Alzheimer’s).

They found evidence on MRI tests that people with high levels of trans fats in their blood had brain shrinkage not seen in their low-trans-fat eating counterparts. Plus, the trans fat eaters performed poorly on memory and thinking tasks, whereas people with higher levels of vitamins B, C, D, and E, and omega-3 fatty acids performed well on the tests.

My Advice

The take-home message is clear: Avoid trans fats. The simplest way to do this is to resolve to limit or eliminate processed and packaged foods from your diet. You won’t go hungry! Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of nuts, seeds, and beans, lean meats, and low-fat dairy.

Source: G. L. Bowman, et al., Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging. Neurology. (2012) –
By: Mark Stengler, NMD