Trans fats have been Public Health Enemy No. 1 for at least 50 years now. (Though as usual, our government only decided to take any action against it a few short years ago.)
Still, if you’re between the ages of 40 and 70, you grew up in the era of trans fats. And with our population aging at a breakneck pace—with more and more people at risk for dementia—I thought it was important to point out some concerning new research on the subject.
This latest study links higher levels of trans fats in the blood with significant increases in Alzheimer’s and dementia risk. And it’s yet another disturbing example of how we were used as human guinea pigs to benefit Big Agribusiness.
Partially hydrogenated poison
These researchers looked at intake of a range of food groups—which included cereals, desserts, fats, sugar and sweeteners, seasonings, meat, and dairy products—among more than 1,600 subjects. And they found that the odds of dementia rose dramatically depending on the amount of trans fats the subjects ate.
And we’re not just talking a small elevation in risk, either. Those with the highest blood concentrations of elaidic acid (this is the trans-fat found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) were 53 percent more likely to wind up with dementia—and 43 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
Researchers zeroed in on elaidic acid because it’s the most prominent industrially produced trans fat. And not surprisingly, sweet pastry consumption had the strongest links to high elaidic acid levels—followed by margarine and candy.
But croissants, non-dairy coffee creamers, ice cream, and even rice crackers also had strong ties to elevated trans fats in this study.
Researchers didn’t investigate the reasons why elaidic acid levels and dementia are so strongly linked. (Though based on the role that heart health—and microcirculation, in particular—plays in cognitive decline, I could certainly hazard a few guesses.)
It’s also not to say that other risk factors aren’t relevant—like not eating enough leafy greens, not taking your nutritional supplements (B vitamins in particular), or the role of environmental toxins in our food, air, and water supply.
But at the end of the day, none of this should stop you from completely avoiding trans fats like the plague.
A cumulative danger
I’m sure I don’t need to remind you how much research has already linked excessive trans fats to coronary artery disease, diabetes, and other cardiometabolic condition. The dangers have been widely known for decades.
Yet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only recently made it a law to remove it from our food supply—and only officially banned artificial trans fats from grocery stores and restaurants in June 2018!
If that’s what you want to call it, at least. The agency, in its infinite wisdom and devotion to Big Agribusiness, still permits foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fats to carry the “zero trans fats” label.
And needless to say, those small amounts can really add up if people eat multiple servings of these foods. (Again—given today’s obesity rate, that’s obviously the rule, not the exception.)
In order to limit your own exposure, the most important step is avoiding partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
That goes not only for the obvious suspects—like margarine and other “buttery spreads,” and packaged cookies and cakes—but for really cheap cooking oil. (Which you’ll encounter by eating at just about any restaurant—whether it’s 5-star or fast food.)
But it’s also worth getting your levels of these harmful fats checked. And while your doctor might not know this, there’s actually an easy blood test that checks for the good and bad fats, so you know how well—or not—you’re eating.
The one I use is called the Boston Heart test. But there are many out there—and if your doctor can’t order one, I suggest finding another who can. Because clearly, there’s much more than just your heart on the line.
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“Trans Fats Tied to Increased Dementia Risk.” Medscape Medical News, 10/25/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/920428)