Transfats have been in the news this past several years, mostly because of the FDA ban imposed last year. Because of this, fast food chains and food manufacturers have switched to fats like canola and soybean oil. The problem is that these fats are high in omega-6 fatty acids. So is soybean oil safe? A new animal study looked at what happens to the brain when rats are fed these fast food oils-they became drug addicts!

Transfats are artificial fats created after World War II by heating fat to make it hydrogenated. We take for granted that baked goods used to have a short shelf life as the lard or butter went bad. However, we all grew up with the fact that a box of Twinkies could last on the grocery store shelf until the second coming and still taste the same! This “miracle” of modern science known as trans-fats caused some real issues for the body, as these fats weren’t able to be digested (i.e. if the bacteria couldn’t digest them, neither could you). While we all heard about how bad butter and lard was for you, this was largely based on falsified research by the man who brought K rations to the military. The real story from food science research that led to the trans-fat ban was that these artificial creations caused heart disease. To get around the ban, many food manufacturers have switched to soy bean or canola oil, but while these sound healthy, they’re pro-inflammatory oils being fed en masse to a country who already has a nasty chronic inflammation problem.

The new study looked at three types of oils fed to rats over two generations. One was fish oil, rich in healthy omega 3 fatty acids. The other was a trans-fat rich hydrogenated oil. Finally, the last tested was the replacement that many food manufacturers have substituted for trans-fats – soybean oil. What happened? While the text is scientifically dense, basically the good omega-3 fatty acids were found in parts of the brain, which is normal as that’s where they should be. However, the bad trans-fats and the soybean oil also incorporated themselves into parts of the brain. In particular, the nasty pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids in the soybean oil flipped the inflammation ratio in the wrong direction. What was really concerning was that the trans-fats and soybean oil changed the brain receptors to make the rats more susceptible to drug addition. Yep, you read that right, these rats had withdrawal type symptoms when they weren’t being given uppers (amphetamines).

The upshot? Yikes! Are we fabricating a nation of drug addicts with mass manufactured food? Even if this study is never replicated in humans (which would be tough to do), pro-inflammatory oils are bad news. Stay the heck away from McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and the like! If you see any food that has a long shelf life, look at the label and if it contains soybean or canola oil, step away from the package… Coconut oil is safe as is good old fashioned butter or lard (which were much maligned without cause). If you’re planning a stem cell procedure, avoids these bad fats!

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