Scientific Nutrition Update 49: Trans Fat and Rage

I have written about trans fats before, but in this episode I wanted to focus more narrowly on a potential link between trans fats and aggression.

Script (remember I-adlib):

For today’s episode I am going to talk about a really interesting study I found today.  This one is about a potential link between trans fats and aggression. Now I am already not a fan of trans fats because they seem to be linked to obesity, and are just generally nasty, but this was especially interesting to me.

 

So first of all what is a trans fat? A trans fat is a form of unsaturated fat, however, unlike normal unsaturated fats this one is synthesized by us humans.  Now chemically the difference is that instead of the two hydrogen atoms being on the same side of the double bond they are on opposite sides. This seems like a really simple change, but it ends up having pretty big changes.  In the cis (normal) arrangement it ends up being much more kinked, the trans arrangement (bad one) is much more straight. Small changes can have big differences.

 

So on to the study, it was published in 2012 but I actually just came across it recently.  Now there are some problems with this study, namely they are not commissioning their own study but piggybacking on a clinical trial that included serious dietary assessment and behavioral study.  Not ideal, but let’s keep looking further at it. What they found was that greater consumption of dietary trans fatty acids was strongly associated with increased measures of aggression, and was actually the best predictor analyzed.  Better than age, ethnicity, or sex. This would suggest to me that this at the very least an effect that needs more analysis. Now, I would prefer a double blind randomized controlled trial, but this to me is still very interesting. However, there are still a couple things that make me nervous.  One as we already discussed is that they are piggybacking. Two they used a questionnaire to assess how much of different foods people are eating, this is not a super accurate method.

 

The potential mechanism proposed here is interesting.  Dietary trans fats seem to be able to interrupt the production of DHA which is one of the Omega 3 fatty acids, which have been suggested in the past to reduce aggression.  They also suggest that dietary trans fats may have their effect from either oxidative stress or inflammation.

 

So what does this mean for us? Well in short it means that we should probably cut out our consumption of dietary trans fatty acids.  We have probable mechanisms, interesting data, and a general good habit to cut this kind of things out. However, it does need more study before I am confident in saying their is a causal link here, preferably with randomized controlled studies.  However you can pay attention the nutrition facts, and more than that watch out for “partially hydrogenated” oils in your ingredients. If you learned something please share this episode with one friend. Thank you for tuning in

Studies: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0032175

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Today I would also like to talk to you about something a little bit different.  I am a recent college graduate and I have become increasingly cynical about the whole college education scam.  However, there are several companies out there are working to change this. One in specific I am willing to advocate for because I have seen the positive testimonials from their students and the dedication of their founder Austen Allred.  This is Lambda School. Now how Lambda School works is it is primarily focused on teaching you how to code, it takes about half a year, and they charge nothing up front. Instead they take a percentage of the first 3 years of your salary after graduation, but only if you are making over 50k.  Now there are several reasons I like this, one the students are successful, two you minimize your risk because if it does not work you owe nothing, finally it is faster, you do not have the same opportunity cost of having to spend 4+ years in an institution studying this stuff. Plus, I can even sweeten the deal a little bit more for you.  If you sign up through https://lambdaschool.com/scinutrient when you graduate you will get $250 dollars, now full disclosure so will I if you graduate.  Still not sure if this is for you? They will several times a year offer free classes you can use to either tune up your skills or perhaps to see if this is for you.  I would check it out if I were you.

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