Trans Fat Increases Risk of Alzheimer's, New Study Finds
Sat, April 10, 2021

Trans Fat Increases Risk of Alzheimer's, New Study Finds

Researchers found out that the high consumption of trans fat raises the risk of having Alzheimer's / Photo Credit: Flickr


Aside from being bad for the heart, trans fatty acids are now believed to be bad for the brain as well. A study recently published in the journal Neurology found that higher levels of trans fat in the blood increases the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

Researchers investigated the possible association between trans fat and dementia in over a thousand Japanese men and women for 10 years. The results provide additional evidence in the risks of developing Alzheimer's due to dietary intake of trans fats as there were unclear connections prior to the study.


The 10-year study

The research followed 1,628 Japanese men and women who had an average age of 70 and did not have dementia. At the beginning of the study, the researchers conducted a blood test for the participants' trans fat levels as well as an analysis of their diets.

The participants were then divided into four groups based on levels of elaidic acid in their blood (the amount of trans fat people consumed). Other factors that may affect the risk of dementia—high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking—were also taken into account, British tabloid The Daily Mail reports.

After monitoring the participants for 10 years, the researchers found that the group who consumed more trans fats were more likely to develop dementia (52 percent) compared to the group who consumed the least.



Out of the 407 people with the highest trans fat levels, 104 developed either Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. That's 30 percent of the group, compared to only 21 percent (82 out of 407) in the lowest level group who were diagnosed with dementia after 10 years.

The British tabloid also says the people with the second-highest level of trans fats were 74 percent more likely to develop a type of dementia compared to those with the lowest level.


The love for trans fats

The results of the study show the negative brain outcomes related to a diet high in trans fat contents, according to neurologist Neelum T. Aggarwal, who was not involved in the study. These outcomes come along with the risks of cardiovascular diseases that may stem from such diets.

Certain meat and dairy products have natural, albeit small, amounts of trans fat in them, but people are more exposed to man-made versions, according to CNN.

These artificial trans fats are produced in an industrialized process where hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Not only are these fats cheap to produce, but they also have a longer shelf life and give more flavor and texture to the food. This is why the food industry often uses trans fats in fried foods, desserts, and other processed foods.

CNN says sweet pastries like cakes, pies, and cookies were the major contributors to higher trans fats levels found in the Japanese study. It was followed by margarine, candies, caramels, croissants, non-dairy creamers, ice cream, and rice crackers.


Replacing bad fats

The association between trans fats and dementia adds to the risks of the chronic deterioration of cognitive function beyond what is expected from normal aging.

Around 50 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with dementia, according to the WHO, and nearly 10 million cases are recorded every year. The most common form is Alzheimer's disease, which makes up 60 to 70 percent of all cases.



While there is no available cure for the disease, there are ways to reduce the risks of dementia such as regular exercise, not smoking, and avoiding harmful alcohol use.

Eating a healthy diet can also reduce the risk—and this includes cutting down on the intake of trans fats.

The human body treats trans fats as saturated fats since they become indistinguishable from one another. Both of these fats pose great risks when consumed in large amounts.

Unsaturated fats, which come in many types, are great alternatives to cut down on trans or saturated fats and are also heart-healthy. Monounsaturated fat is a type of unsaturated fat that can be good for both the brain and the heart.

Monounsaturated fats can lower the risk of death due to heart disease and lower cholesterol levels in the blood. It also benefits brain function by promoting healthy blood flow and even increases the production of a neurotransmitter crucial to learning and memory, health and fitness internet media startup The Greatist says.


A healthy diet and exercise contribute to reducing the risk of Dementia / Photo Credit: Pixabay


Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish help in building membranes around body cells. This includes brain cells, meaning omega-3s enhance the structure of brain neurons. These fats also improve blood flow, which can boost brain function.

Fats have earned a bad reputation when it comes to health because of the risks that come with their consumption. The new study adds fuel to this reputation, providing evidence that fats can also have a negative effect on people's brain function.

However, it should be remembered that not all fats are bad and that a healthy diet doesn't necessarily mean cutting down on them. As shown, there are healthy fats that provide great benefits not only to people's physical health but also to their cognitive health.

It all comes down to choosing the ones that will provide these benefits and asserting control over how much one consumes.