Here’s yet another reason to read the labels of packaged foods, and put them back on the shelf if they contain trans fats.

You have probably read that trans fats are bad for the heart. During February’s National Heart Month, consumers are reminded to avoid trans fats in their diet. Trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to keep foods solid and to extend their shelf life. Here’s where trans fats are often found:

  • packaged baked goods, such as cookies, crackers and frozen pies
  • snack foods such as microwave popcorn
  • certain margarines
  • coffee creamer
  • refrigerated dough products
  • frozen pizza
  • fast foods

Though food manufacturers find trans fats useful, medical science says that these substances are to be avoided. Many studies have shown that trans fats raise the risk of heart disease by raising the level of “bad cholesterol” (LDL). Trans fats have been linked to cancer, diabetes and stroke, as well. Prof. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California-San Diego says it best: “As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people.”

At a recent American Heart Association scientific conference, Dr. Golomb reported on a study that gives us yet another reason to avoid trans fats: they seem to damage our memory. Dr. Golomb’s team studied a group of 1,000 healthy men, and found that the higher a participant’s consumption of trans fat, the worse he performed on a word memory test. Each additional gram of trans fat consumed per day resulted in fewer words recalled. This held true across test subjects of different ages, ethnicities and education levels.

Dr. Golomb explained, “Foods have different effects on oxidative stress and cell energy.” You have probably heard of the benefits of antioxidants. Trans fats, says Golomb, are pro-oxidant, and increase oxidative stress.

The best way to avoid the damaging effect of trans fats is not to consume them at all! Read food labels carefully, and if you see trans fats in the ingredients, leave the product to live out its shelf life … on the shelf.

This article is not mean to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Consult your doctor or nutritionist with questions about cognitive and cardiac health, and about a diet that is best for you.

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners, reporting on a study from the American Heart Association.