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Eating trans fats inhibits learning

Posted - Oct. 26, 2004 at 4:20 p.m.



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SAN DIEGO, Oct 26, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- South Carolina researchers say eating trans fats, the kind in many fast foods, impairs memory and learning.

Lotta Granholm, a neuroscientist at the Medical University of South Carolina whose work was discussed at a San Diego conference this week, fed one group of rats a diet that contained 10 percent hydrogenated coconut oil, a common trans fat.

She gave another group the same diet, but replaced the coconut oil with soybean oil, which is not a trans fat.

After six weeks, the animals were tested in a series of mazes. The coconut oil group made far more errors, especially on the tests that required more mental energy.

"The trans fats made memory significantly worse," Granholm said.

She said trans fat seems to produce its effect on the brain by destroying proteins that help neurons send and receive signals. In animals that ate coconut oil, these molecules, known as microtubule-associated proteins, were much less common.

Granholm suspects trans fat increases inflammation in the brain, which damages the proteins.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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