SparkPeople Blogs  •  nutrition  •  news

Another Reason to Avoid Trans Fat: Depression

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you've read many food labels over the past few years, you're familiar with trans fats. "No Trans Fat" is a popular slogan to help attract consumers and give them a sense that a product is healthy. We avoid trans fats because of the physical affect they can have on the body, increasing the risk of heart disease. But did you know that they can also affect you mentally? New research shows that trans fats can actually make you sad.

First, what is a trans fat? Trans fats are oils that have been chemically-altered (through a process called hydrogenation) from their original liquid states, into solid shortening. The process increases the shelf life of the oil and improves the texture of the food to which the oil is added. One study found that a 2% increase in trans fat consumption increased a woman's risk of heart disease by 93%. The physical reasons for avoiding trans fats are well-documented.

A new study, published in the journal PLoS One, followed thousands of people over a six-year period to analyze their diet, lifestyle and medical conditions. Researchers found that "the people who ate the most trans fats, which are commonly found in pastries and fast food, had a 48% increased risk of depression compared with people who did not eat trans fats." Those people who consumed higher amounts of "good" (polyunsaturated) fats had a lower risk of depression.

This research was conducted in Spain, where trans fats are not a significant part of the typical diet. Researchers feel the results could be even more significant in a country like the United States, where the average intake of trans fats is high. Although the research can't prove a definite cause/effect relationship at this point, the results are strong enough to warrant further investigation.

Find out how to Translate those Trans Fats to learn more about how to avoid them in your diet.

What do you think? Are you surprised to learn that trans fats could have an affect on your mental health?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


I would take any study done in Spain with just 12,000 people with a casual attitude. Did they call people up and ask "hey, how do you feel today", did you eat Twinkies all day?? Or what?? Ridiculous, and no mention of how much money this so called "research group" got for this study, or from which company was it paid from either. Some people who have no money are depressed!! Any studies about that one?? People "surprised" to hear it?? Time to rerun some blogs, granted it must be hard to fill these spaces up every day. Report
I have noticed, myself, in the past that if I ate sweets and not even much, I would feel down later. I was not overweight then, and have always made a point to remember that. If I want to eat something sweet, I eat a little bit i.e. I do not keep sweets in my home at all for that very reason: it makes me feel down - and tired. Report
I've been reading a lot the last few days about how inflammation is the true cause of heart disease and not dietary cholesterol, as we've been told for the past several decades. That trans fats contribute so much to heart disease would go along with that theory. (By the way, a lot of those studies that say that saturated fat are bad were actually looking at trans fats.) The more I read, the more it seems that all of the artificial foods and additives in the typical American diet are irritating our cells and causing that inflammation. The irritation is so low-grade in many cases that it is often not noticed right after an irritant is consumed, so we just keep doing it; but, apparently, these small effects can add up. Our bodies just aren't built to tolerate these things. I think that's the real cause in the escalation of the so-called "diseases of civilization." It's a reflection of just how much our current typical diet is infused with artificial stuff. The more natural your diet is, the better off you'll be. Report
Hello. I'm new but I appreciate SPeople because they keep close watch on new studies about good health. Bandwagon no...'fact finding' yes. I would be disappointed if they said EAT TRANS FATS. Trans fats are chemically produced... a good reason to avoid them. Thanks SPeople - You ROCK! Report
I think that there has to be some credibility in the study. Forty or fifty years ago, we didn't eat as much preprocessed food as we do today. You could just go up the street to buy your meat and vegetables for the day. Today, you have to drive
30 minutes to an hour to the grocery store. Many people don't cook like our grandparents did back in the day. Everything was made from scratch not from a package. I guess that we just have to go back to the simple way of doing things. Report
Trans fat is bad, period! Report
I personally had taken 95% ofthe trans fats out of my diet 2 years ago. Now with my new eatting Lifestyle they are all gone! Yeahhhhhh! Spark-On Report
I am not at all surprized that trans fats have been linked to depression in some people. We all know that the foods we eat can effect our moods or even our mental health. How many of us have stories of how miserable we felt when we ate too many foods loaded with sugar ? Foods can effect our moods. I've read all sorts of blogs from fellow members who rave about how wonderful they feel since changing their eating habits.

So, nope... not surprized one bit.
My husband has clinical depression. I know he has used junk food trying to make himself feel good and instead making him feel worse. Now that he has joined me in eating healthy foods, he is feeling better. Report
I'm not surprised at all - I always feel awful when I load up on sweets, both mentally and physically. I've never had such a sustained good mood as I have since joining SparkPeople, eating right and tracking my food and nutrients. It really makes a difference. Report
Eating fast foods also suggests someone on the run and eating alone. I am sure that there is a greater correlation between happy family dinners where everyone gets a chance to talk and eat home-cooked foods and be together with healthy attitudes and lack of depression that the one suggested in this article. Report
Why am I not surprised. When I am upset and dig into junk food I get even more upset. If I use self discipline and go for fruits or other healthy foods I tend to eat less and get back on track far faster. Report
I would like to think it is true. I know I do feel better when I avoid junk food. I tend toward the "correlation" camp, however. Report
I have to agree with swingirl23. Could it be that people eat the junk food/pastries
because they are depressed to begin with? Comfort food? We have such blind faith in statistical analysis and that it actually represents scientific truth vice a specific interpretation of a data set. garbage in-garbage out always come to mind. :D Report
Very surprised. Glad this blog was available to me. Thanks Report
What do you think?
Not suprised that what we eat effects us mentally.

Are you surprised to learn that trans fats could have an affect on your mental health?
Not at all. Report
I am glad for the knowledge that was available to me. I want to say thanks for the write up on trans fat. Report
I knew there was a good reason I was tracking them and avoiding them!! Thanks for the info! Report
Just eat clean! Yummy olive oils, rice bran oils, sesame oils, etc great for flavouring your fresh veggies & salads- a little bit of butter is so nice too!
Love yourself and your planet- especially when feeling down.
I too have suffered w depression and I know if I take good care of myself, commit to self care, then everything works out ok.
Yes, it was a surprise. Now I have to figure out saturated fats. Report
I was thinking the same as other posters- which came first, the chicken or the egg? Like when you take medicine for depression and one of the possible side effects is suicide... were you suicidal because you took the medicine or did you take the medicine because you were suicidal? Report
I am not really surprised about trans fat causing depression. After all foods like that may make you feel a little better if your feeling depressed already but in the end they usually make you feel full and lazy.

I was surprised to hear of the study about a 2% increase in trans fat consumption increased a woman's risk of heart disease by 93%. Now that is something that will make we start reading labels.

Couldn't this be "correlation" and not "causation"?? Just because people who are depressed eat trans fat does not mean trans fat causes depression. It could be they are depressed and thus eating things like pastries and fast food makes them temporarily feel better (emotional eating). I find it pretty ridiculous that SP would just jump on the causation bandwagon with this study. Report
Couldn't it be that depressed/sad people eat more trans fat than the trans fat causing the depression? Report
Not at all. When I eat crap, I feel like crap. This past week? I've been eating pretty darn clean & lots of fruits & veggies, and I feel FABULOUS! I DO think that foods affect mood, but that's just based on MY experience. People need to be aware of their bodies and be their own judge. Report
Also worth reminding everyone that any item that contains partially-hydrogenated oil contains trans fat, irrespective of whether or not the label claims "no trans fat."

Manufacturers are allowed to say that the product has no trans fat if the product has less than 0.5 gram per serving. Often you'll see the label saying that a product has no trans fat but then listing "per serving" in much smaller print. The American Heart Association recommends "limiting the amount of trans fats to less than 1 percent of your total daily calories. That means, for example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, less than 20 calories (or 2 grams) should come from trans fats."

I have depression, and I know that I didn't care to eat well. I'd stuff myself with cakes, cookies, etc. When you are that low, you don't take care of yourself at all.

I am surprised, to read this though, thanks for opening my eyes, it makes sense. Report
Scary to hear what some stuff can really do to our bodies. Report
I agree. It seems more likely that depressed people would eat more junk food with transfat to try to eleviate depression. And it is easy to be depressed when eating junk foods because you feel guilty. Report
No this does not surprise me at all and I'll tell you why. Speaking from my own personal experience, I got to 300 pounds by eating all that garbage. I knew I was making bad decisions but I was out of control with my eating. I would eat donuts, any kind of sugary stuff for that matter, fast food, I can even overeat veggies (with fatty dip of course). I ate because I was using food to deal with my depression. Depression that was already present BEFORE I used food to comfort myself. Prior to food I used drugs and alcohol. I kicked that and turned to food.

So I guess the question would be this. Which came first? The depression or the trans fat? Report
I think this is my opportunity to say something along the lines of "correlation is not causation." Yes, I'll believe trans fat is bad. But causing depression? I'd be much more likely to believe that low mood causes trans fat. It is very hard to take care of yourself when suffering from depression.

Please take these studies with a grain of salt. They have established a correlation. That does not mean that avoiding trans fat will help your mood.

Sorry, it just hurts when stuff like this is presented as if it were causal. Report