Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Oh noes! Trans fats might make you depressed...


Articles are popping up today about how trans fats cause depression. Now, I'm not saying artificial trans fats are good, quite the opposite. It seems they cause damage on a cellular level as well. But you know what else isn't good? The quality of research that has been put into some of these articles. Like this one:
"Of all these, the participants with a high level of consumption of trans-fats, artificially present in industrial cakes and biscuits and in fast food, and naturally in certain full-fat milk products, "showed an increase in risk of depression of up to 48% compared to those participants who did not consume these,"..."

Where do these people get off? I'd really like to know. I'd like to know how you can have a survey of people and act like it's a clinical trial. I'd like to know how you can have confounding variables out the wazzoo and act like you've controlled for a single variable. I'd also like to know why these people don't understand that CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION. It's so simple, and yet soooooo beyond the grasp of your basic nutrition "expert" or "journalist".

I don't need to point out that industrial cakes, biscuits and fast food are very high in carbohydrates. But did they decide that carbohydrates cause depression? No. Of course not.

But the thing that is really wrong with this article, and why I decided to write about it, is that it equates naturally occurring trans fats with the industrially manufactured ones. There are trans fats in nature, but they are not the same in chemical structure as the commercially developed ones. The most common one, Conjugated Linoleic Acid does indeed occur in dairy, eggs and meat. (Of course, those are all bad for you! Run away!) What's ironic, is CLA is known to be an anti-carcinogen. Yeah, how does that grab ya? Certain forms of CLA also reduce inflammation and thereby prevent cardiovascular disease. What was that about not eating eggs, whole milk and meat?

And even Time jumped on the band wagon, and failed to do any research on the difference between artificial and naturally occurring trans fatty acids:
"The results of the study may be especially bad news for Americans. While the average Spaniard gets about 0.4% of his or her calories from trans fats — mostly from natural or whole-food sources like milk, butter, meat and cheese — Americans log an average of 2.5% of total calories from trans fats. Americans not only eat more overall, but also eat worse-quality food, getting many trans fats from sources like processed snack foods and fried or fast food."

What do these "journalists" get paid to do? Copy and paste? It took me five minutes to find out about CLAs, and to realize they're not the same as artificial trans fats. But more than that, I realize that this "study" is flawed, and not even worth considering as evidence of anything, except that out of 12k people, a few got depressed.

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