(NaturalNews) A UCLA rat study, published in May in the Journal of Physiology, suggests that a diet that maintains a high level of fructose for as little as six weeks slows the brain and hampers memory and learning.
"Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think," concluded Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain's ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage."
Fructose is commonly found in the Western diet in cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes about 47 pounds of cane sugar and 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup each year.
The primary concern of the study was in the intake of high-fructose corn syrup. "We're less concerned about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants," explained Gomez-Pinilla. "We're more concerned about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative."
The study further concluded that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can counteract the disruption.
Gomez-Pinilla and study co-author Rahul Agrawal studied two groups of rats that were given a fructose mixture as drinking water for six weeks. In addition to the fructose, the second group of rats was given omega-3 fatty acids in the form of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and flaxseed oil.
All the rats were fed a standard rat diet and trained on a maze twice per day for five days prior to beginning the fructose diet. The team then tested how well the two groups of rats were able to navigate the maze, which had only one exit but numerous openings. Visual landmarks were used to help the rats learn and remember their way.
After six weeks, the rats were tested for their ability to find the exit through the maze. "The second group of rats navigated the maze much faster than the rats that did not receive omega-3 fatty acids," Gomez-Pinilla concluded. "The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity. Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats' ability to think clearly and recall the route they'd learned six weeks earlier."
Prior studies have shown how fructose can cause diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver, but this is the first study to show how fructose can influence brain activity.
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