Consumption of higher amount of dietary transfatty acids, commonly used in processed foods to improve taste, texture and durability, may lead to poorer memory in young men, new research has found.
Researchers evaluated data from 1,018 men and women, ages 20 to 85, who were asked to complete a dietary survey and memory test involving word recall.
On average, men aged 45 and younger recalled 86 words; however, for each additional gram of dietary trans fatty acids (dTFA) consumed daily, performance dropped by 0.76 words.
This translates to an expected 12 fewer words recalled by young men with dTFA intake levels matching the highest observed in the study, compared to otherwise similar men consuming no trans fats.
"Trans fats were most strongly linked to worse memory in men during their high productivity years," said lead author Beatrice Golomb, professor of medicine at University of California San Diego School of Medicine in the US.
"Trans fat consumption has previously shown adverse associations to behaviour and mood — other pillars of brain function. However, to our knowledge a relation to memory or cognition had not been shown."
After adjusting for age, exercise, education, ethnicity and mood, the link between higher dTFA and poorer memory was maintained in men 45 and younger.
An association of dTFA to word memory was not observed in older populations.
The research was primarily focussed on number of men and women in the same age group, which was too small to draw conclusions about whether the link held true for them as well.
"As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people," Golomb said.
The study was published online in the journal PLOS ONE.