We've long known that trans-fatty acids, the unsaturated fatty acids produced as by-products during food manufacturing, raise bad cholesterol levels and increase risk of type 2 diabetes.
A new study by researchers at Tohoku University in Japan has found yet another reason to avoid trans-fatty acids: They promote cell death in a direct manner, which can lead to the development of atherosclerosis - a leading cause of heart attack and stroke!
Keep reading for more on the link between trans-fatty acids and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke
Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease in which plaque clogs the arteries. During the development of the disease, white blood cells turn into macrophages, which are immune cells that destroy harmful substances in the body.
Those macrophages eventually develop into foam cells that cause severe inflammation and cause plaque. When the macrophages die, they release pro-inflammatory molecules, including extracellular ATP, which worsens inflammation.
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A body of past research has found a link between consuming trans-fatty acids and the development of atherosclerosis, but this Japanese study is the first to explain the mechanism behind this.
Tohoku University researchers link trans-fatty acids to atherosclerosis – a major cause of heart attack and stroke
The team of researchers behind this new study published their findings in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. They were lead by associate professor Takuya Noguchi and professor Atsushi Matsuzaw.
According to their study, they found that the development of atherosclerosis happens in a much more direct way in people who consume trans-fatty acids than what they thought. They explained that trans-fatty acids promote cell death by feeding extracellular ATP, which activates the ASK1 kinase as well as another kinase called CaMKII without increasing reactive oxygen species.
Furthermore, the team found that a number of trans-fatty acid types – elaidic acid, linoelaidic acid and trans-vaccenic acid – stimulate cell death but not their corresponding cis-fatty acids, which are healthy, naturally occurring fatty acids. The harmful trans-fatty acids are made from these cis-fatty acids through a hydrogenation process used by food manufacturers.
The researchers concluded that their study provides insight into the mechanism of disorders caused by consuming trans-fatty acids. Next, they plan to investigate how trans-fatty acids lead to the development of both atherosclerosis and heart disease
at a molecular level.
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