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012 - Trans Fats and Attention

posted Nov 11, 2015, 10:07 AM by Doug Muha

Counselor Notes 12

November 21, 2013

Trans Fats & Attention

The Washington Post recently had an article that trans fats are being phased out: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trans-fats-to-be-phased-out-fda-says/2013/11/07/80cfc8be-47c4-11e3-a196-3544a03c2351_story.html 

This is indeed welcome news! (Well, if they get replaced with something healthier.)  Some have suspected that trans fats contribute to ADHD.

According to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/01/6-incredible-brain-facts_n_914965.html#s319323title=Your_Brain_Is the brain is composed of about 60% fats. It would thus seem important that children be consuming healthy fats.   

Regarding trans fats, the Franklin Institute http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/fats.html#brainblockers  (Retrieved 11-18-13) notes:

 

By modifying natural fats, we have altered the basic building blocks of the human brain – weakening the brain’s architecture. And, like unstable buildings that come apart in an earthquake or storm, poorly structured human brains are failing to cope with the mounting stress of modern life.

 

Studies show that the trans fatty acids we eat do get incorporated into brain cell membranes, including the myelin sheath that insulates neurons. They replace the natural DHA in the membrane, which affects the electrical activity of the neuron.

 

Trans fatty acid molecules disrupt communication, setting the stage for cellular degeneration and diminished mental performance.

 

Brain cells need a certain degree of flexibility to function properly. This is accomplished by a maintaining a balance of different types of fatty acids in the cell membrane.

 

The particular physical size and shape of individual fatty acid molecules is what gives the brain cell membrane its structural flexibility and fluid-like properties.

 

Normal fatty acids have a natural curve to their molecular shape. When they fit together in vast numbers, enough space still remains so that the membrane has the proper structure it needs to function at its best.

 

However, if these same fat molecules are changed by manufactured food processes, or if they are heated for long periods – as in deep frying – they mutate into a form rarely found in nature. Now their molecules are straighter, narrower, and no longer have their original curved shape.

 

This means that these altered fats will pack more tightly together into the cell membrane, making it more saturated and rigid – less flexible and less able to function properly. These altered fats are called "trans fatty acids," and are finally being recognized for the damage they cause.

http://druglessdoctor.com/food/non-dr-bob-approved/trans-fat/the-adhd-and-trans-fat-link/   (Retrieved 11-14-13) writes something similar:

This is issue with ADHD and depression: The brain sends messages on a layer of fat called the Myelin Sheath. I want you to think of your nerves as wires. The copper in the wires, where the electric charges flow over, would be similar to the fat in the nerves. The configuration of a “normal” fat molecule is C shaped. The C’s connect with each other and become cell membranes; the C’s flip-flop back and forth to make a chain or linked fence. Can you imagine trying to connect C’s and T’s? This will confuse the body.

 

Trans fat or partially hydrogenated fats do just that to the body. The T-shaped Trans Fat (which is how it got its name) because of the T or twisted molecule cannot interlock with the C’s creating a “short circuit” in the body’s ability to send messages.

An article in Psychology Today http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prime-your-gray-cells/201109/the-skinny-brain-fats  (Retrieved 11-18-13) would argue for trans fats being a problem: 

 

Here are two reasons you may want to ban trans fats from your diet:

1.   Trans fat works against your brain by disrupting the production of energy in the mitochondria (the energy factories) of brain cells.

2.   When your diet is high in trans fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids, your brain absorbs twice as many trans fatty acids.

It is interesting to me that trans fats disrupt the “energy factories” of the brain cells and a common way of treating ADHD is to give children a stimulant drug like Ritalin. 

Those looking to avoid trans fats have to be careful. Manufacturers are well aware of some members of the population avoiding trans fats.  WebMD posts  http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/understanding-trans-fats?page=2  (Retrieved 11-14-13) this on the issue:

 

Reach for the product whose label shouts "0 Trans Fats!" and what do you get? Maybe some trans fats. That's because the FDA allows that label on anything with 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

  

As a result, keep in mind this advice:

 

1. Even if you're a conscientious shopper, it's easy to ingest a significant amount of trans fats without knowing it. A bowl of "trans-fat-free" cereal (that actually contains half a gram) plus a slice of birthday cake at the office and some microwave popcorn in the evening add up quickly.

 

2. Get in the habit of reading nutrition labels, the ones headed "Nutrition Facts."Look at all the fats listed there. Keep in mind that saturated fat is also unhealthy. If the label lists Trans Fat as 0 g, look at the Ingredients List for the words "partially hydrogenated." Any oil that is partially hydrogenated is a trans fat. So a single serving of cookies could have as much as a half gram of trans fat and be labeled "0 Trans Fats." Be aware, too, that often a "single serving" is often less than an average person eats.

Is the reason they have a single serving as less than an average person eats to get the serving size at a half gram of trans fat?  

According to http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/understanding-trans-fats?page=2  (Retrieved 11-14-13),here are some common foods that manufactures use trans fats in:

·         Cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and breads such as hamburger buns

·         Some stick margarine and vegetable shortening

·         Pre-mixed cake mixes, pancake mixes, and chocolate drink mixes

·         Fried foods, including donuts, French fries, chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells

·         Snack foods, including chips, candy, and packaged or microwave popcorn

·         Frozen dinners 

Health.com lists these as the 22 worst foods for trans fats: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20533295,00.html

The avoiding of trans fats may be of particular importance to a newborn child.  The child’s brain grows from 25% of its adult weight at birth to 80% of its adult weight at the age of 3.  That’s a lot of growing in three years!  (For comparison, boys at age 3 average only about 31 lbs – less than 20% of their adult weight.)

While eliminating trans fats from your children’s diet is advised by many.  It may also be advisable for adults to rid themselves of such as well.

 

Like saturated or animal fats, trans fats contribute to clogged arteries. Clogged arteries are a sign of heart disease; they increase your risk of both heart attack and stroke.  http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/trans-fats-science-and-risks  (Retrieved 11-18-13)

 

The science that shows that trans fats increase LDL cholesterol levels is outstanding and very strong. All evidence is pointing in the same direction," Lichtenstein tells WebMD. [Alice H. Lichtenstein, Dsc, professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston]

 

In the Nurse's Health Study, women who consumed the greatest amount of trans fats in their diet had a 50% higher risk of heart attack compared to women who consumed the least.

Some researchers suspect that trans fats also increase blood levels of two other artery-clogging compounds -- a fat-protein particle called lipoprotein(a) and blood fats called triglycerides.

Equally worrisome, population studies indicate that trans fats may raise the risk of diabetes. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston suggest that replacing trans fats in the diet with polyunsaturated fats (such as vegetable oils, salmon, etc.) can reduce diabetes risk by as much as 40%.

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/trans-fats-science-and-risks?page=2  (Retrieved 11-18-13)

It is nice to hear trans fats are being phased out of foods.  As noted above, they MIGHT be contributing to ADHD.  According to http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/08/health/fda-trans-fats.html?_r=0 the FDA say eliminating them may save 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year.   It may also help some kids pay attention too! 

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