Food and Behaviour Research

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Trans fatty acid intake is related to emotional affect in the Adventist Health Study-2.

Ford PA, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Lee JW, Tonstad S. (2016) Nutr Res. 36(6) 509-17. Epub 2016 Jan 22. 

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Trans fatty acids in Western diets increase health risks, and have been associated with the risk of depression. We hypothesized that intakes of trans fatty acids (primarily from margarines and baked goods) were inversely associated with positive affect and positively associated with negative affect in a longitudinal study.

Church attendees residing in North America completed a food frequency questionnaire in 2002-6 as part of the Adventist Health Study-2. A subset in which we excluded participants with established cardiovascular disease (n=8,771) completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) in 2006-7. The associations between dietary intakes of fatty acids to positive and negative affect were tested with linear regression analysis controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, education, body mass index, exercise, sleep, sleep squared, Mediterranean 
diet, total energy intake and alcohol.

Intakes of trans fatty acids were inversely associated with positive affect (β=-0.06, B=-0.27 [95% CI -0.37, -0.17], p<.001) and positively associated with negative affect (β=0.05, B=0.21 [95% CI 0.11, 0.31], p<.001). In comparison, we found no association between n-3 polyunsatured fatty acids (PUFA) intakes with affect. The n-6:n-3 PUFA ratio was inversely associated with positive affect (β=-0.03, B=-0.34 [95% CI -0.58, -0.10], p=0.006).

The findings suggest that a lower dietary trans fatty acid intake has beneficial effects on emotional affect while the n-6: n-3 ratio is detrimental to positive affect.


Industrially produced trans fats have no health benefits and many health risks. In fact, the W.H.O declared them to be toxins in 2009, and many developed countries (albeit not yet the UK) are now banning them from the human food supply.

In this observational study, higher trans fat consumption was found to be linked with more negative and less positive emotions in a large population of US adults, controlling for a wide range of other variables.  A higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats was also associated with less positive emotions.

These findings are consistent with other evidence that dietary fat intake can affect mood, but as the study was purely observational, they cannot in themselves demonstrate causality.

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