The negative health effects of trans fats are well researched; as Dementors are to Harry Potter, so too are these hydrogenated oils to our hearts, our bodies in general and perhaps our memories. And to keep this analogy going even further, new research may show that the antidote to a bad memory (perhaps counteracting the effects of trans fats in a similar fashion to the way it counteracts the effects of dark magic) may be chocolate. James Hamblin wrote in The Atlantic recently about the connection between these two foods and our memories.
Hamblin refers to a few recent studies, one that correlated consumption of trans fats with bad memories, another that correlates cocoa flavanol consumption with better memory, and another that correlates a country’s per capita chocolate consumption with its incidences of Nobel Laureate winners. It’s important to remember here that correlation does not necessarily indicate causation, but it is certainly compelling, and a fun idea to think that chocolate may be the answer to our memory needs.
Hamblin explains that Dr. Beatrice Golomb, the lead researcher on the trans fat study partially got the idea for her work through these studies on chocolate consumption and cognitive function:
She explained that both the oxidative stress itself (through effects on proteins, lipids, DNA, and RNA) and inadequate cell energy contribute to cell dysfunction and cell death. Both are linked to worse memory. Inadequate cell energy can lead to "idling neurons" that might be restored with enough energy."
And so, the inflammation induced by trans fats (and reduced by chocolate) may underlie these new memory findings. Even if it's not the trans fats that drove this new correlation, the effect does seem to be due to some dietary factor. So, optimizing one's memory is yet another reason to eat well.
So, as the holiday season presses on, consider putting down that cream puff and picking up a bar of dark chocolate.
Chocolate, Memory Food via The Atlantic
Trans Fat is Double Trouble for Your Heart Health via MayoClinic
The Negative Effects of Hydrogenated Trans Fats and What To Do About Them via National Center for Biotechnology
Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson