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Nov 26, 2014 05:40 PM EST

Trans Fat Consumption May Hurt Memory

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New research suggests that trans fats are associated with declines in memory among young and middle-aged people.

Researchers found that consuming large amounts of trans fats -- used for decades in Crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies, and other baked goods to increase shelf life -- was linked to worse memory, in young and middle-aged men, during their working and career-building years, LiveScience reported

Previous studies have also linked trans fat consumption has also been linked to higher body weight and heart disease.

"Trans fats increase the shelf life of the food but reduce the shelf life of the person," Dr. Beatrice Golomb, lead author of the study and a professor at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, told USA Today. "They're metabolic poison and that's not a good thing to be putting into your body. They don't provide anything the body needs."

For the study, Golomb and her coauthor studied approximately 1,000 adults who had not been diagnosed with heart disease, including men age 20 or older and postmenopausal women. Participants completed a dietary questionnaire, from which the researchers estimated participants' trans fat consumption. To assess memory, researchers presented participants with a series of 104 cards showing words. Participants had to state whether each word was new or a word duplicated from a prior card.

They found that those who consumed the most trans fats showed notably worse performance on a word memory test. For each extra gram of trans fat eaten a day, the person remembered .76 fewer words, CNN reported. Those who ate the most trans fat in the study remembered a total of about 10 percent fewer words compared with the adults who ate the least amount of trans fat.

The strength of the association remained even after taking into consideration things like age, education, ethnicity and depression.

The findings were presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2014.

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