This Commonly Consumed Sugar is Wrecking Your Brain
If you are still drinking soda and eating processed foods, here is a reason to stop – and a suggestion of what to replace it with.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an inexpensive liquid sweetener widely added to processed foods and is an ingredient in many soft drinks. The Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans consume an average of about 27 pounds a year.
Research over the past several years have linked the sugar to chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and fatty liver. It may also be harming our brain, says researcher at University of California Los Angeles.
Xia Yang, an assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology, and Fernando Gomez-Pinella, a professor of neurosurgery and integrative biology and physiology, studied rats who were given a diet high in fructose – about the equivalent of a person drinking a liter of soda per day. They found that these animals after six weeks had damage that impaired their memory, as evidenced by a maze navigation experiment.
The research team identified many genes in the brain that were altered by the fructose intake – more than 700 in the hypothalamus (the brains major metabolic control center) and more than 200 in the hippocampus which helps regulate learning and memory.
In addition, the rats had much higher blood glucose (a sign of diabetes) and triglycerides (a component of cholesterol which puts them at risk for cardiovascular disease).
Skip the Sugar, Replace with Healthy Fats
However, the team did find some good news in the animal experiment. Consuming food sources high in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) may help reverse some of the harmful changes produced by fructose.
“DHA…seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal which is remarkable,” states Yang. Found in fish such as wild salmon and nuts/seed such as walnuts and flaxseed, DHA strengthens synapses in the brains and enhances learning and memory.
The professors do warn, though, that while DHA seems beneficial, it is not a magic bullet. Overall dietary changes are crucial for health – which includes avoiding sugary soft drinks, cutting down on desserts, and generally consuming less sugar and saturated fat.
University of California - Los Angeles. "Fructose alters hundreds of brain genes, which can lead to a wide range of diseases: Scientists report that diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reverse the damage." ScienceDaily. 22 April 2016.
Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, Xia Yang et al. Systems Nutrigenomics Reveals Brain Gene Networks Linking Metabolic and Brain Disorders. EBioMedicine, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2016.04.008
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