Alice G. Walton
May 21, 2012
Though we may not have fully come to terms with it, in theory we know that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an adversary of health. Lots of work has been done looking at the effect of fructose on weight, liver function, diabetes risk, and even the growth of cancer cells. But not much has looked at the role of fructose in brain function, until now. Researchers have just reported that among the list of bodily ills that fructose contributes to, it may also “make you dumb.” Luckily, eating a diet rich in the healthy omega-3 fatty acids seems to counteract this phenomenon.
In the new study, UCLA researchers had rats spend a few days learning to navigate a maze. Then some of the rats ate diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids or deficient in them; some rats also drank a fructose solution in the place of their regular drinking water. After six weeks on their respective diets, the team put the rats back in the maze to see how well they recalled it.
The rats who had eaten omega-3-deficient diets were slower at completing the maze than the ones who ate diets rich in omega-3s. Those who drank the fructose solution instead of water were the worst-off of all when it came to their cognitive capabilities.
The rats also had important differences in how their bodies – and brains – were metabolizing sugar and functioning overall. The rats who had eaten diets without omega-3s had higher triglyceride levels as well as higher glucose and insulin levels. In fact the rats seemed to enter a state of insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes), but this too was reversed by the addition of omega-3s.