It's a fact that excess dietary fructose can harm your body by setting up the conditions for diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver, but what does it do to your brain? Studies have not addressed this question - until now.
A new UCLA study is the first to show how a steady diet high in fructose can damage your memory and learning.
Researchers investigated the effects of high-fructose syrup, similar to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a cheap sweetener six times sweeter than cane sugar, which is used in most soft drinks, processed foods, condiments, and even many baby foods.
The team sought to study the effects of a steady intake of this super-processed, concentrated form of fructose, which is quite dissimilar from the naturally occurring fructose in fruits. They fed rats a fructose solution as drinking water for six weeks, then tested their ability to remember their way out of a maze.The results certainly grabbed the researchers' attention.
Too Much Sugar Makes You Stupid!
The rats fed fructose syrup showed significant impairment in their cognitive abilities—they struggled to remember their way out of the maze. They 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.
Additionally, the fructose-fed rats showed signs of resistance to insulin, a hormone that controls your blood sugar and synaptic function in your brain. Because insulin is able to pass through your blood-brain barrier, it can trigger neurological processes that are important for learning and memory.
Consuming large amounts of fructose may block insulin's ability to regulate how your brain cells store and use sugar for the energy needed to fuel thoughts and emotions. 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.
The Conclusion: Researchers concluded that a high fructose diet harms your brain, as well as the rest of your body.
The Protective Effects of DHA
A second group of rats was given omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), in addition to the high fructose diet. After six weeks, this group of rats was able to navigate the maze better and faster than the rats in the non-DHA group.
The researchers concluded that DHA is protective against fructose's harmful effects on the brain. DHA is essential for synaptic function—it helps your brain cells transmit signals to one another, which is the mechanism that makes learning and memory possible. Your body can't produce enough DHA, so it must be supplemented through your diet.
Fructose Affects More Than Just Memory and Brain Function
It is projected that 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030,
which is expected to cost the nation roughly half a trillion dollars per year in additional health costs.
Clearly, that will affect YOU, whether you are among the 42 percent or not.The obesity problem cannot be solved by waiting for the food industry to be struck by a wave of altruism. Big business always has and always will be driven by healthy profits, not healthy people. America has cultivated a toxic culture that has written real food and exercise right out of the script.
The facts are sobering:
- Americans today consume an average of 600 more calories per day than they did in 1970
- Seventy-five percent of Americans now drive to work, a 300 percent increase since 1960
- In 1969, 42 percent of kids walked or biked to school, versus less than 20 percent today
- Fewer than five percent of adults meet the minimum guidelines for physical activity, and one in four adults gets no physical activity at all
- Currently, only four percent of elementary schools, eight percent of middle schools, and two percent of high schools provide physical education
Tips To Tweak Your Diet
Solving this problem is going to require significant changes on personal, community, and nationwide levels. The best first step is to take an honest look at your own personal lifestyle habits—and start making some changes there.
Below are some basic strategies you can implement today.
- Avoid as much sugar as possible, especially fructose. This is especially important if you are overweight or have diabetes or pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. Limit your fructose intake to 25 grams per day.
- If you want to use a sweetener occasionally, consider using the herb stevia, or organic cane sugar or organic honey in moderation. Avoid agave syrup, as most commercial products are just highly processed sap consisting almost entirely of fructose.
- Consume your sugar with fiber. Fiber helps modulate the impact of sugar by slowing absorption. The perfect sweet food is a piece of fruit, which contains fiber as well as beneficial antioxidants.
- Eat a well balanced diet, tailored to your specific body type. It should consist of ample raw foods, fresh organic produce, grass pastured meat and dairy, raw nuts and seeds, and naturally fermented foods. Avoid processed foods, genetically engineered foods, and foods with added chemicals.
- Get plenty of high quality omega-3 fats from both plant and animal sources. As the study above showed, omega-3's are crucial to modulating the damaging effects of sugar—and have MANY other benefits. My favorite animal-based omega-3 source is krill oil.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels and attempt to spend some time outdoors each day.
- Exercise every day. Exercise improves insulin sensitivity, reduces stress and cortisol levels, suppresses ghrelin (the appetite hormone), speeds up your metabolism, strengthens your bones, and even lifts your mood.
- Rehydrate with fresh, pure water.
- Get plenty of sleep.