Working Title: Serum elaidic acid may be linked to dementia

Mark Beaumont MD

January 12, 2022

Writer: Mark Beaumont

Word Count: 400-600 words

Deadline: 11/20/19

What is elaidic acid?

You may have never heard of elaidic acid but in all likelihood, you have heard of trans fat, another name for elaidic acid. Trans fat is commonly used in many foods that we eat in the manufacturing process not only to give it taste but also to preserve it to prevent and avoid quick spoilage. It has been well documented by medical research that we should avoid artificial trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated oils, as much as possible. They raise your “bad” (LDLcholesterol levels causing excess fat deposition in the body leading to obesity. Trans fats also blocks important blood vessels bringing blood to vital organs like the heart and the brain. This can lead to heart disease, the number one cause of death, stroke and dementia. A recent study in the journal Neurology has shown that high blood levels of trans fat has been associated with a significantly elevated risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Those who participated in the study with the highest levels of blood elaidic acid levels had a 53% increased risk of dementia. 

What foods have trans fat

Trans fat is commonly found in butter, margarine and deserts like crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies, and other baked goods. It can be found in many snack foods and refrigerated dough products such as microwave popcorn, biscuits and cinnamon rolls. Frozen pizza and many fast-foods may also use trans fat in the baking and cooking process. The study also made a connection between higher trans-fat levels and those who reported eating these foods. Sweet pastries were the strongest predictor of higher serum elaidic levels, followed by margarine and sugar confections such as candy, caramels, and chewing gum. Croissants, nondairy creamers and ice cream were also associated with higher trans-fat levels in the study.

Fortunately, the Food and Drug administration has passed law placing limits on the use of trans fat allowed in foods and more importantly mandating that manufacturers report on food labels the amount found in foods. In the United States, the small amounts still allowed in foods can really add up if people eat multiple servings of these foods, and trans fats are still allowed in many other countries.

  These results give us even more reason to limits and avoid trans fats. There are challenges in doing so because the fat is found in everyday foods that are convenient to purchase and often relatively inexpensive. More work still needs to be done on the policy level to increase the expectations of health standards for food producers and educating food consumers of healthy food choices and the link between trans-fat and brain disease. There is a growing body of evidence between diet and risk of dementia and it is related to high cholesterol levels and likely also connected to environmental toxins and poor dietary habits like not getting enough nutrients like vitamins B and leafy green vegetables. If there is a concern talk with your primary care doctor and nutritionist so that you can have your blood cholesterol drawn and see what your trans fat levels are. If they are high or normal it is a good idea to talk with a nutritionist about creative ways to reduce and replace foods you consume that contain trans-fat. It has been said that small changes can make a large impact and the adjustment that needs to be made may be easier than you think.

Reference

Serum elaidic acid concentration and risk of dementia

Takanori Honda et al. Neurology. Oct. 10 2019.