Trans fat consumption may make people more irritable and aggressive, suggests new research published in the journal PLoS ONE.
This is just the latest study to link trans fat consumption to adverse health outcomes, although it is the first to suggest a behavioral effect. Other studies have suggested trans fats could adversely affect lipid levels, metabolic function, insulin resistance, oxidation, inflammation, and cardiac health.
"If the association between trans fats and aggressive behavior proves to be causal, this adds further rationale to recommendations to avoid eating trans fats, or including them in foods provided at institutions like schools and prisons, since the detrimental effects of trans fats may extend beyond the person who consumes them to affect others,” said lead researcher Beatrice Golomb, associate professor in the University of California San Diego Department of Medicine.
The researchers wrote that omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to reduced aggression and irritability, and they hypothesized that consumption of trans fats, which inhibit omega-3 production, may therefore be associated with aggression.
They analyzed data on the diets of 945 men and women collected between 1999 and 2004, and conducted behavioral assessments, including history of aggression and conflict, and self-reported assessment of irritability and impatience.
"We found that greater trans fatty acids were significantly associated with greater aggression, and were more consistently predictive of aggression and irritability, across the measures tested, than the other known aggression predictors that were assessed," said Golomb.
The researchers wrote that their results may also have relevance for public policy on trans fats.
Artificial trans fat consumption has fallen dramatically in the United States over the past decade – by 58% according to one recent report – as some cities and regions have instigated bans, and the federal government has required labeling of the fat.
Food manufacturers came under increased pressure to eliminate artificial trans fats from foods, after evidence mounted to show they raise levels of LDL (so-called ‘bad’) cholesterol, while lowering levels of HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, thereby clogging arteries and causing heart disease.
The full version of this latest study is available online here .