Sugar and the Brain

A new UCLA study indicates that a diet high in fructose impairs memory and inhibits learning in rats.  The form of the fructose doesn’t seem to matter much.  Whether the fructose comes from high-fructose corn syrup, sugar cane, or fruit, it’s still fructose.  Take in too much, and you might be making yourself dumber.  While we don’t know why fructose inhibits cognitive ability, Mr. Gomez-Pinilla, member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute, has some ideas:

[High fructose intake promotes insulin resistance.] Because insulin can penetrate the blood–brain barrier, the hormone may signal neurons to trigger reactions that disrupt learning and cause memory loss.  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. Our study shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body. This is something new.

But, there’s good news: omega-3 fatty acids can counteract the disruption.  Eating foods rich in omega-3s like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds, or DHA supplements, can protect the brain against fructose’s harmful effects.

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