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Junk food fats linked to poor memory

Thursday, 24 March 2016  |  Editor

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Junk food = poor memory

After the food and drink indulgences of Christmas and New Year, we naturally start to think about getting back into shape in January.  We all know junk foods are bad news for your waistline and new research is  highlighting the negative effects these unhealthy foods also have on memory and cognitive function.

Intake of trans or hydrogenated fats (so called because of the addition of hydrogen to their structure during manufacture) from processed foods like cakes, pastries, crisps and margarines were linked with poor performance in a word recall test carried out in a study by researchers at the University of California.

Over 1000 men aged 20 and over participated in the study.  Those with the highest consumption of trans fats in their daily diet performed worst in the memory test, recalling an average of 11 fewer words than those with lower levels of dietary hydrogenated fats.

Trans fats have previously been linked with cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol levels.  These artificial fats are added to foods to prolong their shelf life but as study author Dr Beatrice Golomb commented, whilst these fats “may increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people.”

The brain is particularly susceptible to damage from trans fats because of its structural high fat content.  Brain cells require large amounts of healthy fats in order to function and communicate properly.  Trans fats block the actions of healthy fats in cell membranes, effectively disrupting the ability of brain cells to talk to each other and impairing memory.  The end result is similar to what happens when you have a poor signal on your mobile phone – messages get lost and broken.

Avoiding processed foods laden with trans fats is an important step to take to protect and support memory function.  Including healthy fats such as the omega-3 oils from oily fish, krill oil, nuts and seeds, and a good supply of phospholipids like phosphatidylcholine from lecithin granules, helps the brain maintain flexible, responsive cell membranes, ensuring good communication and a sharp clear memory.

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