We are used to hearing the term “bad fats” associated with increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Now it appears you can add brain health to the list of reasons to avoid bad fats.
According to new research that involved more than 6,000 women over 65, those who consumed the highest levels of saturated fats had worse overall cognitive functions than those who consumed the least.
All the women in the study filled out detailed food frequency surveys at the start of the study and participated in three cognitive function tests every two years for a span of about four years.
Bad fats include saturated and trans-fats. Saturated fats are most often found in meat and dairy products. The majority of trans fats in our diet are oils that are processed (hydrogenated) into solids (i.e. vegetable shortening).
Good Fats = Better Brain
However, “good” monounsaturated fats were associated with better cognitive function and memory. Sources of monounsaturated fats include vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, and sesame oil. Other sources include avocados and many nuts and seeds.
"Our findings have significant public health implications," said study author Olivia Okereke, MD, MS, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. "Substituting in the good fat in place of the bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent decline in memory."
With our aging population, preventing cognitive decline is particularly important. Even subtle declines in cognitive functioning can lead to higher risk of developing more serious problems, like dementia and Alzheimer disease, she explained.
Get in the habit of reading nutrition labels--the box with the heading "Nutrition Facts." Look at all the fats listed there. Look for foods with little or no saturated fats and “0” trans fats. Also, scan the Ingredients List for the words "partially hydrogenated." Any oil that is partially hydrogenated is a trans fat.
To learn more tips about reading labels, see Fooled by Food Labels: 9 Deceptive Claims to Watch Out For.
Annals of Neurology
American Heart Association