Trans fats are widely used by food manufacturers to give foods such as cakes, pastries and biscuits a more solid consistency and to prolong shelf life. They are a product of fats and oils altered by industrial processes, such as hydrogenation, which is a process widely used to solidify liquid vegetable oils to make products such as margarines and shortenings. Trans fats are not only found in vegetable shortenings and some margarines but also in crackers, snack foods and fried fast foods, like chips and nuggets.
So what makes Trans-fat so bad for us? Because the natural structure of the oil has been altered, our body cannot bind to and eliminate trans fats. For this reason they may accumulate in your body, directly affecting heart health. More recently, trans fats have been linked to the soaring rates of depression we see today.
Recent research at the University of Las Palmas in Spain, found that of the 12,000 participants that took part, those who consumed the most Trans-fat had a 48% increased risk of depression. This was in stark contrast to the participants that consumed high levels of olive oil who were found to have a 30% lower risk of depression.
Low moods are often difficult to identify and many patients who come to my clinic seek assistance for feeling down and out. Awareness of the right food to eat in order to give your hormones a nutritional boost may assist in embracing life with energy and enthusiasm.
Unhealthy fats change the composition of your brain’s neurotransmitters. Some foods increase levels of serotonin and dopamine. Protein is the key player in mood cures, providing us with all those essential amino acids essential for making these neurotransmitters. On the flip side, other foods may lead us down a path of depression. So what is the role of fats in mental health?
Trans-fats essentially increase bad cholesterol (LDL). High levels of LDL cholesterol have been linked to impaired circulation, stress and inflammation in the brain. A ‘stressed’ brain releases substances that affect our mood. Trans-fats essentially try to barge in on cells that usually absorb healthy Omega 3’s. When the cells start to receive Trans-fat and not Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) they become inflamed and their ability to communicate normally is hindered.
Once trans fats are ingested, dopamine levels which are required for mood and focus are lowered by up to 95%. No wonder ADHD and depression are on the rise!
So be aware of the trans fats in foods – particularly in deceptively ‘healthy’ foods such as muesli bars and ‘low fat’ crackers. Be mindful when packing your child’s lunch box – remember trans fats impair brain function and the last thing any child needs is brain fog.
Wholesome, fresh foods are best – make your own. It’s really not that difficult. Check out some of the recipes on this site or exchange ideas with other parents.