Are you a sweet tooth? Maybe it’s time to change your high-sugar diet if you want to keep your brains healthy. Eating too much sugar – or rather high-fructose corn syrup added to most processed foods – slows the brain, hampering memory and learning, says new research.
Researchers of the University of California Los Angeles used laboratory rats trained to find their way out of a maze. For six weeks, one group of rats drank fructose corn syrup instead of water – an intervention that equals excessive consumption of soft drinks. Half of the rats’ high-fructose diet also included omega-3 fatty acids. A control group was fed a standard diet, without receiving any fructose corn syrup.
The results demonstrate that just six weeks of a high-fructose diet caused the animals to forget the escape route in the maze. Both the group of rats that received omega-3 acids, as the control group navigated the maze much faster than their counterparts.
“The animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity,” said study author Gomez-Pinilla. “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.”
According to the researchers, their study aims to show how foods made with high-fructose corn syrup, which is abundant in the Western diet, impact cognitive abilities.
“Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,” said Gomez-Pinilla. “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information.”
For those addicted to their daily candy intake, there’s still hope. Fortunately, the study also found that the omega-3 fatty acids in foods such as salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds can counteract the disruption. So you know what to do!
Photo: APM Alex / Flickr
Agrawal R, & Gomez-Pinilla F (2012). ‘Metabolic syndrome’ in the brain: deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signalling and cognition. The Journal of physiology, 590 (Pt 10), 2485-99 PMID: 22473784