Sugar makes you stupid: Study shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory
2012 05 17

By Elaine Schmidt | UCLA Newsroom

Attention, college students cramming between midterms and finals: Binging on soda and sweets for as little as six weeks may make you stupid.

A new UCLA rat study is the first to show how a diet steadily high in fructose slows the brain, hampering memory and learning — and how omega-3 fatty acids can counteract the disruption. The peer-reviewed Journal of Physiology publishes the findings in its May 15 edition.

"Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think," said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. "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."

While earlier research has revealed how fructose harms the body through its role in diabetes, obesity and fatty liver, this study is the first to uncover how the sweetener influences the brain.

Sources of fructose in the Western diet include cane sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup, an inexpensive liquid sweetener. The syrup is widely added to processed foods, including soft drinks, condiments, applesauce and baby food. The average American consumes roughly 47 pounds of cane sugar and 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"We’re less concerned about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants," explained Gomez-Pinilla, who is also a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center. "We’re more concerned about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative."

Gomez-Pinilla and study co-author Rahul Agrawal, a UCLA visiting postdoctoral fellow from India, studied two groups of rats that each consumed a fructose solution as drinking water for six weeks. The second group also received omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which protects against damage to the synapses — the chemical connections between brain cells that enable memory and learning.

"DHA is essential for synaptic function — brain cells’ ability to transmit signals to one another," Gomez-Pinilla said. "This is the mechanism that makes learning and memory possible. Our bodies can’t produce enough DHA, so it must be supplemented through our diet."

The animals were fed standard rat chow and trained on a maze twice daily for five days before starting the experimental diet. The UCLA team tested how well the rats were able to navigate the maze, which contained numerous holes but only one exit. The scientists placed visual landmarks in the maze to help the rats learn and remember the way.

Six weeks later, the researchers tested the rats’ ability to recall the route and escape the maze. What they saw surprised them.

"The second group of rats navigated the maze much faster than the rats that did not receive omega-3 fatty acids," Gomez-Pinilla said. "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."

The DHA-deprived rats also developed signs of resistance to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar and regulates synaptic function in the brain. A closer look at the rats’ brain tissue suggested that insulin had lost much of its power to influence the brain cells.

"Because insulin can penetrate the blood–brain barrier, the hormone may signal neurons to trigger reactions that disrupt learning and cause memory loss," Gomez-Pinilla said.

He suspects that fructose is the culprit behind the DHA-deficient rats’ brain dysfunction. Eating too much fructose could block insulin’s ability to regulate how cells use and store sugar for the energy required for processing thoughts and emotions.

"Insulin is important in the body for controlling blood sugar, but it may play a different role in the brain, where insulin appears to disturb memory and learning," he said. "Our study shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body. This is something new."

Gomez-Pinilla, a native of Chile and an exercise enthusiast who practices what he preaches, advises people to keep fructose intake to a minimum and swap sugary desserts for fresh berries and Greek yogurt, which he keeps within arm’s reach in a small refrigerator in his office. An occasional bar of dark chocolate that hasn’t been processed with a lot of extra sweetener is fine too, he said.

Still planning to throw caution to the wind and indulge in a hot-fudge sundae? Then also eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds, or take a daily DHA capsule. Gomez-Pinilla recommends one gram of DHA per day.

"Our findings suggest that consuming DHA regularly protects the brain against fructose’s harmful effects," said Gomez-Pinilla. "It’s like saving money in the bank. You want to build a reserve for your brain to tap when it requires extra fuel to fight off future diseases."

The UCLA study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Gomez-Pinilla’s lab will next examine the role of diet in recovery from brain trauma.

The UCLA Department of Neurosurgery is committed to providing the most comprehensive patient care through innovative clinical programs in minimally invasive brain and spinal surgery; neuroendoscopy; neuro-oncology for both adult and pediatric brain tumors; cerebrovascular surgery; stereotactic radiosurgery for brain and spinal disorders; surgery for movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease; and epilepsy surgery. For 20 consecutive years, the department has been ranked among the top 10 neurosurgery programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

-------

Update:

[Correction: Paragraph 5 of this release was changed from an earlier version to reflect that the study focused on fructose generally, not specifically on high-fructose corn syrup; that high-fructose corn syrup is not necessarily "six times sweeter" than cane sugar; and that Americans consume approximately 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per capita annually, not "more than 40 pounds." The researcher’s quote in Paragraph 6 has also been changed slightly to avoid the implication that the study focused solely on high-fructose corn syrup.]


Article from: newsroom.ucla.edu

Top Image: Source






Video from: YouTube.com






Related Articles
This Addictive Commonly Used Food Feeds Cancer Cells, Triggers Weight Gain, and Promotes Premature Aging - Surprise! It’s Sugar
The Trouble with Sugar
Sugar can make you dumb, US scientists warn


Latest News from our Front Page

How Monsanto is Destroying the Brains and Health of Everyone
2014 11 25
Interested in slowing your aging process? Take note! One of my most recent blog entries summarized roughly 10 years of research related to the consequences of inflammatory processes in the periphery of the body, such as the gut, and how this was driving brain degenerative inflammatory processes within the brain. One of the key findings from that research was how pathogenic ...
Guccifer: Pennsylvania City to be Nuked Next Year
2014 11 25
From Youtube: Renowned hacker Guccifer, who accessed the private emails of numerous top military, political and intelligence leaders, told the New York Times that a city in Pennsylvania is the target of a nuke attack in 2015. Guccifer also revealed that he is sitting on an archive of hacked emails that have not been publicly released.
Israeli Police Caught On Video Hosing ‘Skunk Spray’ on Palestinian Elementary Schools and Protesters
2014 11 25
Israeli police in Jerusalem have been caught on video recently spraying East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods with a concoction they call “skunk spray”. The liquid is a mixture of sewage and rotting animal roadkill. The result of the police hosing down neighborhoods, elementary schools and protesters with the mix is a putrid smell that seems almost impossible to get off or be ...
The New Normal: Artist Butchers "Disney Princesses" with Breast Cancer Scars
2014 11 25
Comment: Natural remedies for cancer, like: diet, vitamins, minerals and other supplements are NEVER addressed. Neither are chemicals and wi-fi saturated environment recognized for the rise in these new epidemics. Instead ... what do they do? They normalize it. Like it’s just the new thing you need to do. Change nothing and adapt to these new circumstances of mutilation kids. ...
Gasp, Turkish President Observes Reality: "Women and Men Created Differently"
2014 11 25
Comment: Wow, a politician that manage to observe reality. Shocking and offensive no doubt, I wonder how the pro Muslim Feminists in Scandinavia and the rest of the West will react to this. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan set off a new controversy on Monday, declaring that women are not equal to men and accusing feminists of not understanding the special ...
More News »