LAB REPORT

How trans fats fog your brain, and the real price of air pollution in China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 June, 2015, 6:08am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 June, 2015, 6:08am

Trans fat linked to poorer memory: Eating processed food could be harming more than just your diet - your memory may be affected too. Higher consumption of dietary trans fatty acids, commonly used in processed foods to improve taste, texture and durability, has been linked to reduced memory function in males under the age of 45, according to a University of California, San Diego School of Medicine study. Researchers evaluated data from 1,018 men and women who were asked to complete a dietary survey and memory test involving word recall. On average, men aged 45 and younger recalled 86 words. However, for each additional gram of trans fats consumed daily, performance dropped by 0.76 words. This translates to 12 fewer words recalled by young men with the highest dietary trans fatty acids intake levels in the study, compared to those consuming none. "As I tell patients, while trans fats increase the shelf life of foods, they reduce the shelf life of people," says Dr Beatrice Golomb, the study's lead author.

Cleaner air could prevent 2.1 million deaths a year: Improving air quality - in both clean and dirty places - to meet World Health Organisation guidelines could reduce annual pollution-related deaths worldwide from 3.2 million to 1.1 million, say a team of environmental engineering and public health researchers. Among the 2.1 million preventable deaths, 1.4 million come from polluted areas such as China, India and Russia. Published last week in Environmental Science & Technology, the study looked at how changes in outdoor pollution due to particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns could lead to changes in rates of diseases such as heart attack, stroke and lung cancer. The WHO's air quality guideline for particulate matter concentration is 10 micrograms per cubic metre; some parts of India and China experience levels that exceed 100. The researchers warn that with ageing populations, health risks in many countries will increase even if pollution levels are constant. They estimate deaths per capita from air pollution will rise 20 to 30 per cent in the next 15 years in India and China.

Milk proteins may protect against cardiovascular disease: The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that results in browned foods like seared steaks and toasted bread. When proteins and sugars are mixed together and heated, new chemical compounds are formed. Researchers in South Korea have determined that dietary compounds formed in naturally fermented milk-based products lowered serum total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and triglycerides in mice. These compounds also protected against acute pulmonary thromboembolism, the researchers say in their report in the Journal of Dairy Science. Matt Lucy, professor of animal science at University of Missouri and the journal's editor-in-chief says: "We are beginning to understand that dairy products provide benefits to human health beyond the traditional nutrients. This study performed in laboratory animals demonstrates the potential for milk proteins found in naturally fermented foods to improve human cardiovascular health."