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Irritated or Moody? Blame Trans Fat

March 17, 2012

Eating diet high in trans fats is associated with irritability and aggression, say researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

It was found that people who consume lots of snacks made with dietary trans fatty acids (dTFAs), are more likely to be irritated and behave aggressively when compared to their counterparts who eat less fast foods. According to Dr. Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, this new study appears to be the first to link dTFAs with human behavior.

In order to test the relationship between dTFAs and aggression or irritabilityin people, Dr. Golomb and her team analyzed diet information of nearly 1,000 U.S. men and women with an average age of fifty-seven years, and performed behavioral assessments on them. All the participants were scored on factors such as a life history of aggression, being able to handle or resolve a conflict, their irritability levels, self-rated impatience and finally, their score on an "overt aggression" scale.

Researchers found that greater trans fats consumption was more likely to predict whether a person was more aggressive. The finding held true even after they took into consideration other potential aggression factors, such as alcohol use, smoking, education, sex, ethnicity and age. The study came to the conclusion that the association, in combination with the "biological plausibility" of such an effect of trans fats, made a causal association quite likely. For instance, trans fats inhibit production of omega-f fatty acids, and deficiencies in these beneficial for health omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to heightened aggressive behavior.

Experts say that there are lots of foods out on the market that contain dTFAs, including shortenings and processed foods. According to the CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), trans fats have been commonly found in fried foods and commercially baked products such as cookies, crackers and pies. Previous investigations on this matter have demonstrated that dTFAs are associated with harmful levels of lipids (blood fats), insulin resistance, inflammation and heart disease. The Mayo Clinic gave their own explanation, saying that trans fat - which is made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, and this helps foods last longer - increases the levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol in the blood and decreases the levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol, therefore contributing to the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately for us, nowadays a lot of restaurants, cafes and food brands have eliminated trans fats from their products. Many fast food chains have stopped frying their foods in hydrogenated oils, and five chains in particular - McDonald's, Wendy's, Jack in the Box, Burger King and Dairy Queen - had significantly reduced the levels of trans fat in their french fries.

The findings were presented in the journal PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed online publication published by the non-profit Public Library of Science.

Tags: Mental Health, Health