You don’t have to be eating decadent cakes, processed candies, sugary sodas, and pints of ice cream to be eating large amounts of sugar, commonly in the form of corn syrup. You might be surprised to notice corn syrup in the ingredients of food such as bread, frozen pizzas, macaroni & cheese, cereal bars, cocktail peanuts, tonic water, salad dressing, apple sauce, and ketchup.
In our fast-paced lives, it is very difficult to avoid the myriad of foods that contain fructose. Even when we think we are feeding our families “healthy” food, it can still contain ingredients that have been found to be harmful. So how can we finally kick sugar cravings to the curb? The good news is, studies have shown there are other nutrients that may help with the effects of fructose.
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The omega-3 fatty acids EPA (EicosaPentaenoic Acid) and DHA (DocosaHexaenoic Acid) have a wide range of profound health benefits, from supporting heart and joint health to promoting healthy cognition and mood. However, new research reported in an article entitled, “Systems Nutrigenomics Reveals Brain Gene Networks Linking Metabolic and Brain Disorders,” which appeared April 21 in the journal EBioMedicine, demonstrates a new one.
The study by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), showed that DHA can reverse the harmful alterations to hundreds of genes that are produced by excessive consumption of fructose, especially in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.
High-fructose corn syrup is commonly found in soda, condiments, desserts, applesauce, baby food, and other processed snacks. What is worse is that, according to the US Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes more than 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of high-fructose corn syrup per year.
The new research demonstrated that consuming a lot of fructose in the diet can actually change the expression of hundreds of genes, including genes that may lead to a greater predisposition toward metabolic diseases such as diabetes, and brain disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease.
Excitingly, it was additionally demonstrated that DHA largely reversed the fructose-induced changes in the brain. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential to the brain and can be found in fatty fish, such as salmon, as well as in walnuts, flaxseed, and omega-3 fatty acid supplements. The brain and the body are not able to manufacture DHA; it has to come through our diet.
The scientists tested the effects of fructose and DHA in a group of rats that were trained to escape from a maze and then were randomly divided into three groups. For the next 6 weeks, one group of rats drank water with an amount of fructose that would be approximately equivalent to a person consuming a liter of soda per day. Rats in the second group were given fructose water and a diet rich in DHA, while the third group drank water without fructose and ate no DHA.
After the six weeks, the rats were again put through the maze. The rats that had received only the fructose were about half as fast at finding their way out as the rats that were given only water, suggesting that the fructose had impaired their memory. The rats that had been given DHA and fructose navigated the maze at about the same speed as the group that had only had water, strongly suggesting the DHA eliminates the harmful effects of the fructose.
Furthermore, the research team sequenced tens of thousands of genes in the rats’ brains and identified more than 900 genes, the vast majority of which are comparable to genes in humans, which were altered by the fructose. Some of the conditions that can be caused by alterations to those genes are depression, Parkinson’s disease, and bipolar disorder.
Historically, the focus regarding the effects of high-fructose corn syrup has been about weight gain and obesity, but this study shows that a high-fructose diet not only harms the body but harms the brain as well. It also highlights yet another phenomenal health benefit of ensuring that you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
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