THURSDAY, March 15, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Eating a diet high in trans fatty acids, an ingredient found in fried foods, baked goods and other prepared meals and snacks, might be associated with negative -- and even aggressive -- behavior, new research suggests.
In conducting the study, researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine analyzed the diet and behavior of 945 men and women. They also considered other possible contributing factors, such as the participants' history of aggression as well as alcohol and tobacco use.
The study, published online recently in PLoS ONE, found that people who consumed more trans fats were more likely to demonstrate negative behaviors, such as impatience, irritability and aggression.
Study leader Dr. Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor in the UC San Diego department of medicine, explained in a university news release that higher levels of trans fatty acids in the diet were "significantly associated with greater aggression, and were more consistently predictive of aggression and irritability, across the measures tested, than the other known aggression predictors that were assessed."
However, while the study uncovered an association between dietary trans fatty acids and negative behavior, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
"If the association between trans fats and aggressive behavior proves to be causal, this adds further rationale to recommendations to avoid eating trans fats, or including them in foods provided at institutions like schools and prisons, since the detrimental effects of trans fats may extend beyond the person who consumes them to affect others," Golomb concluded in the news release.
"Dietary trans fatty acids are primarily products of hydrogenation, a chemical process that makes [unsaturated] oils solid at room temperature," according to background information in the study. Previous research has linked dietary trans fatty acids to adverse health effects on lipids (such as cholesterol), metabolic function (how the body turns food into energy), insulin resistance, inflammation and cardiac and general health, the authors of the report noted.
The American Heart Association has more about trans fats.