A diet high in sugar slows down the brain, research finds.
Both memory and learning were weakened by a diet high in fructose (sugar).
However, omega-3 fatty acids can help fight the problem, the scientists also discovered.
Around 1g of DHA a day could be enough to help counteract the deleterious effects of sugar.
Professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, study co-author, said:
“Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think.
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.”
The study gave some rats a high fructose solution to drink for six weeks.
Another group were also fed omega-3 fatty acids.
Professor Gomez-Pinilla explained the results:
“The second group of rats navigated the maze much faster than the rats that did not receive omega-3 fatty acids.
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.”
Professor Gomez-Pinilla advises that we should keep sugary food intake to a minimum:
“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.”
Omega-3, though, can help protect the brain, Professor Gomez-Pinilla said:
“Our findings suggest that consuming DHA regularly protects the brain against fructose’s harmful effects.
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.”
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The study was published in the journal Physiology (Agrawal & Gomez-Pinilla, 2012).