According to the conclusions of a new study, it would appear that consuming a lot of saturated fats – such as found in fatty meats, lard, butter, cheese, cream, coconut oil and palm kernel oil, among other sources – leads to cognitive decline and memory impairment in humans.
Investigators at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in the United States, discovered the link in a new scientific study conducted on data from the Women's Health Study. The survey includes 40,000 women aged above 45. For the study, the team looked at 6,000 women from this group, who were 65+.
During the same investigation, the team found out that consuming monounsaturated fats had a beneficial effect on cognitive function and memory, contributing to improving both these neural systems. These fats can be found in red meat, whole milk products, nuts and fruits such as olives.
During the investigation, the women were asked to take three cognitive function tests, spaced at two-year intervals. Each participant was also asked to fill out food frequency surveys throughout the study.
“When looking at changes in cognitive function, what we found is that the total amount of fat intake did not really matter, but the type of fat did,” BWH Department of Psychiatry scientist, Olivia Okereke, MD, MS, explains.
Details of the new investigation were published in the latest online issue of the esteemed scientific journal Annals of Neurology, which is edited by the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society.
The conclusions of the new study could be used to develop new methods of fighting cognitive decline and memory loss in people suffering from various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
The study could be of great use in informing treatments for people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that often precedes Alzheimer's. The latter is a neurodegenerative, fatal form of dementia, PsychCentral reports.
According to Okereke, the negative effects of saturated fats on the human brain became visible after as little as four years of testing.