Trans Fats Linked to Increased Risk for Alzheimer’s by Dr. Joseph Mercola for Mercola
As noted by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of “Grain Brain” and “Brain Maker,” your diet and other lifestyle factors have major implications for your Alzheimer’s risk.
Indeed, according to research1,2 published in the journal Lancet Neurology in 2011, up to half of all Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented by addressing modifiable lifestyle contributors such as physical inactivity, depression, smoking, high blood pressure, midlife obesity and diabetes.
Three dietary components shown to promote this neurological degeneration are sugar (especially processed fructose), grains and trans fats. Research3,4 from the Mayo Clinic, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2012, found diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89% increased risk for dementia while diets high in healthy fats are associated with a 44% reduced risk.
As noted by the authors,5 “A dietary pattern with relatively high caloric intake from carbohydrates and low caloric intake from fat and proteins may increase the risk of MCI [mild cognitive impairment] or dementia in elderly persons.” Similarly, a 2013 study6 in the journal BioMed Research International reported that:
“Increasing epidemiological studies suggest that diet and nutrition might be important modifiable risk factors for AD [Alzheimer’s disease].
Dietary supplementation of antioxidants, B vitamins, polyphenols, and polyunsaturated fatty acids are beneficial to AD, and consumptions of fish, fruits, vegetables, coffee, and light-to-moderate alcohol reduce the risk of AD … Adherence to a healthy diet, the Japanese diet, and the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of AD.”
Trans Fat Consumption Increases Your Dementia Risk
Most recently, research7 published in the October 2019 issue of Neurology found a strong link between trans fat consumption and incidence of dementia and its various subtypes, which includes Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
The study included 1,628 Japanese seniors aged 60 and older. None had dementia at the outset of the study, which went on for 10 years. Levels of elaidic acid — a biomarker for industrial trans fat — in the participants’ blood were measured using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.
Based on those levels, the hazard ratios for all-cause dementia, AD and vascular dementia were calculated using the Cox proportional hazards model. As reported by the authors:8
“Higher serum elaidic acid levels were significantly associated with greater risk of developing all-cause dementia and AD after adjustment for traditional risk factors. These associations remained significant after adjustment for dietary factors, including total energy intake and intakes of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.”
This increase in risk was not slight. As reported by CNN,9 people in the highest quartile of elaidic acid levels were 74% more likely to develop dementia. Those in the second-highest quartile had a 52% higher risk. No association between trans fat and vascular dementia was found.
Of the various processed foods found to contribute to elevated elaidic acid levels, pastries were the biggest contributors, followed by margarine, candy, caramels, croissants, nondairy creamers, ice cream and rice cakes.10
Dr. Richard Isaacson, a neurologist and director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the study, commented on the findings to CNN:11
“The study used blood marker levels of trans fats, rather than more traditionally used dietary questionnaires, which increases the scientific validity of the results. This study is important as it builds upon prior evidence that dietary intake of trans fats can increase risk of Alzheimer’s dementia.”