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Articles May 2011 Issue

Trans Fats Tied to Depression Risk

Could trans fats be making you blue—and not just because of their dangerous effects on your heart health? A new Spanish study of more than 12,000 men and women reports that those consuming the highest level of trans fats were 48% more likely to suffer from depression. People consuming the most healthy poly- and monounsaturated fats, on the other hand, saw a lower incidence of depression.

Miguel Martínez-González, of the University of Navarra, and colleagues studied 5,038 men and 7,021 women, average age 37.5, participating in the SUN project. A 136-item food-frequency questionnaire was used to estimate fat intake at the study’s start. During a followup period, participants were classified as incident cases of depression if they reported a new clinical diagnosis of depression by a physician and/or initiated the use of antidepressant drugs; 657 new cases of depression were identified over an average 6.1 years.

Participants with the highest trans fat intake were 42% more likely to develop depression. On the other hand, with higher levels of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, depression risk went down.

Researchers noted that a relationship between trans fat intake and depression could be detected even though the Spanish diet is quite low (0.4%) in the proportion of calories from trans fats, which typically come from partly hydrogenated vegetable oils. That suggests the findings might be especially important in the US, where trans-fat consumption (2.5% of calories) is more than six times that in Spain.

Noting the connection between heart disease and the type of fat consumed, Martínez-González and colleagues added, “These findings suggest that cardiovascular disease and depression may share some common nutritional determinants related to subtypes of fat intake.”

TO LEARN MORE: PLoS ONE; online at

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