Decsi, T., Burus, I., Molnar, S., Minda, H., Veitl, V. (2001) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 74(3) 364-8.
BACKGROUND: Previous studies showed significant inverse correlations between values of trans isomeric and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in plasma lipids of preterm infants and healthy children aged 1-15 y.
OBJECTIVE: We sought to evaluate the same correlations in full-term infants at birth.
DESIGN: We studied healthy full-term infants (n = 42) born after normal pregnancies and deliveries. All infants had a family history of atopy (both parents or one of the parents and a sibling had atopic symptoms). The fatty acid composition of venous cord blood lipids was determined by high-resolution capillary gas-liquid chromatography.
RESULTS: The mean (+/-SEM) sum of trans fatty acids was 0.49 +/- 0.02% by wt in phospholipids, 2.47 +/- 0.20% by wt in cholesterol esters, 1.73 +/- 0.09% by wt in triacylglycerols, and 1.59 +/- 0.07% by wt in nonesterified fatty acids. Linear correlation analysis showed significant inverse correlations between the sum of trans fatty acids and both arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid in phospholipids (r = -0.56, P < 0.001, and r = -0.48, P = 0.01, respectively), cholesterol esters (r = -0.52, P < 0.001, and r = -0.39, P = 0.018, respectively), and nonesterified fatty acids (r = -0.41, P = 0.007, and r = -0.41, P = 0.006, respectively).
CONCLUSION: Because trans fatty acids in the fetal circulation must originate from the maternal diet, our results indicate that maternal exposure to trans fatty acids may represent a previously neglected variable that inversely influences long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid status in full-term infants at birth.
Trans fats (associated with the 'hydrogenation' of fats and oils to preserve their shelf-life) have no nutritional benefits and appear to have many serious health risks, so official advice is now that individuals should try to reduce their consumption to the lowest possible levels.
This study shows that higher levels of trans fats in the cord blood of full-term infants are associated with lower levels of the long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are essential to optimal brain development and function.
Since this study, a huge body of research has confirmed the damaging effects of trans fats on human health:
For further information, see the FAB factsheet on trans fats