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food-question-markAs if trans fats aren’t bad enough as it is, now they could be making us forgetful? That’s what researchers from the University of California San Diego determined recently after completing a study that included nearly 700 men age 20 and older.

The more dietary trans fats they consumed each day, the more difficulty they had with memory—specifically, word memory. Those who ate the most trans fats (about 15 grams per day) recalled approximately 0.76 fewer words, which translated to about 11 or 12 fewer words out of a total of 86. That’s about a 10% drop in memory, researchers point out.

In addition, there was evidence to support an association between higher trans fat consumption and worse memory performance in young adults, said lead author Dr. Beatrice Golomb in a recent article. She added that this was an important point because those are often key “career-building” years.

As to why or how trans fats affect memory, researchers speculate the unhealthy fats may infiltrate healthy cells—including brain cells—and disrupt their function, but more research is planned to support this theory. Findings from the UCSD study were presented last month at the American Heart Association conference in Chicago.

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Nowadays more and more Americans are reading the Nutrition Facts labels found on foods and beverages—but what if we weren’t getting the whole truth?

Even as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working toward a label makeover to help provide consumers with more clarity about the foods they are eating, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that many processed foods claiming to be free of harmful trans fats actually are not.

CDC experts analyzed more than 4,300 popular packaged foods available in grocery stores and found that 9 percent of the food items contained trans fats even though 84 percent claimed they were either “trans fat-free” or contained “0 grams of trans fat.” The reason has to do with the fact that manufacturers are allowed to round down anything less than 0.5 g of trans fat, which means consumers may be eating the unhealthy fats even when they think they aren’t.

Despite their harmful effects on human health, trans fats can still be found in many commonly bought products—including pre-packaged snack foods such as cookies, crackers and chips, as well as in microwave popcorn, cake mixes and frostings, packaged pudding, pie crusts, pancake and waffle mixes, non-dairy creamer, margarine and many frozen foods (including frozen pizza).

Based on their findings, researchers believe that not only should health officials do a better job of restricting trans fats in food products, but that yes—food labels need to be much clearer when it comes to representing the true amount as well as the health risks associated with trans fats.

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