A new study from UCLA suggests that fructose could negatively impact memory and learning ability. That’s bad news for the average American, who consumes about 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year!
For the study, researchers set out to test brain efficiency and memory changes in a group of rats based on varying intakes of fructose and omega-3 fatty acids. First, researchers spent 5 days training the rats to complete a maze. They then divided the animals into two groups and ceased training for a period of 6 weeks.
Both groups received a standard food allotment and drank a water-fructose solution throughout the six week period. But the second group’s water was also supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and DHA, which are thought to protect chemical connections in the brain that enable memory and learning.
During the follow-up test (after 6 weeks without training), the rats who consumed the fructose water without omega-3s took longer to finish the maze, and had higher triglycerides, insulin, and glucose levels.
The study’s lead researcher, Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, believes that fructose was the culprit behind the DHA-deficient rats’ brain dysfunction. He explained that eating too much fructose could block insulin’s ability to regulate how cells use and store sugar for energy, which is a requirement for processing thoughts and emotions.
He was quoted: “Insulin is important in the body for controlling blood sugar, but it may also play a different role in the brain, where insulin appears to disturb memory and learning. Our study shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body. This is something new.”
Does this mean we should totally avoid sugars…especially fructose? Not necessarily.
Gomez-Pinilla explained: “We’re less concerned about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants. We’re more concerned about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative.”
Image Credit: Nagatta/Flickr