New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in America suggests that certain types of fat are associated with worse memory and overall cognitive function.
While we’ve known for years that eating too many foods containing ‘bad fats’, such as saturated fats or trans fats, isn't healthy for your heart, a study published online today by the Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, associated one particular bad fat - saturated - with worse overall cognitive function and memory in women over time.
By contrast, mono-unsaturated fat, was associated with better overall cognitive function and memory.
The research team analysed data from the Women's Health Study, focused on a subset of 6,000 women, all over the age of 65.
The women participated in three cognitive function tests, which were spaced out every two years for an average testing span of four years. These women filled out very detailed food frequency surveys at the start of the Women's Health Study, prior to the cognitive testing.
"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," explained Olivia Okereke of the BWH Department of Psychiatry, in a statement.
Women who consumed the highest amounts of saturated fat, which can come from animal fats such as red meat and butter, compared to those who consumed the lowest amounts, had worse overall cognition and memory over the four years of testing.
Women who ate the most of the monounsaturated fats, which can be found in olive oil, had better patterns of cognitive scores over time.
"Our findings have significant public health implications," said Okerekem in a statement. "Substituting in the good fat in place of the bad fat is a fairly simple dietary modification that could help prevent decline in memory."
Okereke notes that strategies to prevent cognitive decline in older people are particularly important. Even subtle declines in cognitive functioning can lead to higher risk of developing more serious problems, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.