Trans fats and hypothyroidism: Trans fats shrink the brain, increase dementia risk

trans fats shrink brain

A recent study found a diet high in trans fats shrinks the brain and increases the risk of dementia, making them a poor choice for people with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. The brain depends on proper thyroid function, and a brain-healthy diet is paramount for people with Hasimoto’s and hypothyroidism.

Trans fats are found in fast foods, processed foods, margarine, shortening, and more. They can be identified in a list of ingredients as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil.

Hypothyroidism diet: High in vitamins, omega 3s

On the other hand, study participants who ate diets high in vitamins B, C, D, and E and omega 3 fatty acids were found to have larger, healthier brains than their junk-food eating counterparts. These nutrients are found in a diet high in vegetables, fruits, fish, and raw nuts and seeds.

A brain-healthy diet will also tame autoimmune flare-ups and inflammation associated with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism.

Even small amounts of trans fats damaging

Although a few studies in the past have examined the link between brain health and trans fats, this study by Oregon Health and Science University in Portland was the first to measure blood levels of trans fats in relation to brain volume using MRI brain scans.

The most sobering observation was that blood levels of trans fat levels were not that high, a testament to the damage they cause even in small amounts.

Researchers suggest that trans fats in the diet replace healthy fats in the brain’s cell membranes, which affects the ability of the brain to function properly.

Brain is made of mostly fat

Cell membranes communicate with other cells and determine what is allowed to enter and exit the cell. Fatty acids make up a significant portion of cell membranes, brain tissue, and myelin sheaths, which protect neurons that communicate with one another. In fact, about 60 percent of the brain is made up of fat, coming from fats in the diet.

Trans fats replace good fats in brain

When trans fats become part of the cells and nerve sheaths they replace vital brain fats, such as DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid. As a result, cellular communication suffers, the cells degenerate, brain volume shrinks, and memory and cognition suffer.

Trans fats restrict blood flow to brain

Trans fats also contribute to the clogging of veins and arteries, which inhibits blood flow to the brain. Constricting blood flow to the brain robs the brain of oxygen and vital nutrients, another factor that degenerates, or shrinks, the brain and affects function.

The good news is that a diet high in vitamins B, C, D, and E, and omega 3 fatty acids protects the brain from shrinkage and decline. The study subjects who ate a diet abundant in these nutrients consistently scored better on mental performance tests and showed less brain shrinkage.

Eating to protect brain health with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Trans fats are closer to plastic than food, significantly impacting brain health, and it’s best to strictly avoid them.

Instead, aim for a brain-friendly diet that includes leafy green vegetables, seafood, eggs, olive oil, nuts, avocadoes, colorful fruits, nuts, and meats.

Also, eliminating all sweets and sodas, minimizing starchy foods (grains, potatoes, legumes, etc.), and eliminating foods to which you are intolerant (gluten and dairy, for example) will reduce inflammation, another factor that shrinks the brain and steals memory.

Studies show a strong link between Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and gluten intolerance, making a strict gluten-free diet important for managing thyroid health.

Other food intolerances are common for those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. An allergy-elimination diet is a good way to ferret out which foods may be causing inflammation.

Dr. Joni Labbe

About Dr. Joni Labbe

Dr. Joni Labbe is a board-certified clinical nutritionist specializing in science-based nutrition with a focus on women's health issues. She has successfully helped pre-menopausal and menopausal women regain and maintain their health since 1995. Dr. Labbe is the author of the Amazon #1 Best Selling book Thyroid & Menopause Madness and It’s Not Just Menopause: It’s Your Thyroid. She is also a professional speaker, radio personality, fitness expert, and former host of “Healthier Way With Dr. Labbe.” Dr. Labbe is one of the country’s leading authorities on thyroid disorders, including Hashimoto’s disease. Dr. Labbe has also authored numerous articles and blogs on health, nutrition, and thyroid health, as seen in Naturally Savvy, Thyroid Nation, and Fox News. She is a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionalist, Doctor of Chiropractic, and has post graduate training in Functional Neurology, Functional Endocrinology, Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis, and earned a Diplomate and Fellow in Nutrition from the American Association of Integrative Medicine.

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