(NaturalHealth365) It is no secret that sugary drinks, sweets, and other processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup are detrimental to your health. The pervasiveness of high fructose corn syrup in the Americans diet has even been blamed for the epidemic of obesity, type 2 diabetes and related diseases. But now, scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have started to uncover the exact reasons why fructose is linked to so many ills.
Researchers there have discovered that fructose actually alters hundreds of genes in the brain. Those changes are linked to development of many diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, among others. But the scientists also discovered a nutrition-based, natural solution: the omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA can reverse these harmful effects.
Scientists find fructose affects metabolic and memory areas of brain
Published online in the journal EBioMedicine, the UCLA study was the first genomics study of all genes, gene pathways and gene networks affected by fructose. In their investigation, UCLA life scientists first trained rats to escape from a maze, then divided the animals randomly into three groups. Over the course of six weeks, one group drank water with an amount of fructose equivalent to a human drinking a liter of soda per day. A second group was also given the fructose water, but then provided with a diet rich in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Rats in the third group received plain water without fructose and were not given DHA.
After six weeks had passed, the rats were again put through the maze. Animals given fructose only took about twice as long to navigate the maze as rats that drank plain water, suggesting the fructose somehow impaired memory. Those rats that were given fructose as well as DHA, however, showed navigation skills similar to the rats provided only with plain water.
Additional tests on the rats revealed more significant differences. For example, rats given a high fructose diet exhibited higher blood glucose, insulin levels and triglycerides than rats from the remaining two groups. In humans, these elevated levels are associated with obesity, diabetes and a number of other related diseases.
The research team was able to sequence more than 20,000 genes in the rats’ brain cells, a vast majority of which are comparable to genes found in humans. They identified more than 700 genes in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain associated with metabolic control, as well as more than 200 in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with learning and memory, that were altered by fructose. Interestingly, scientists found that two of the genes were among the first to be affected by fructose. These two genes, once altered, then set off a domino effect with other genes in the brain.
Major health problem: High fructose corn syrup has become staple ingredient in American diets
The U.S. food manufacturing industry has found high fructose corn syrup to be one of the cheapest sweeteners available. Because of this, it is found in a vast array of foods, including not only soda and candy bars, but also baby food, breakfast cereal, yogurt, salad dressing, baked goods and even so-called nutrition bars.
Americans consumed an average of about 27 pounds of high fructose corn syrup in 2014, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. While fructose is also found in most fruit, the fiber present significantly slows the body’s absorption of the sugar and the other healthy components of fruit help to offset drawbacks of the fructose.
Omega-3 fatty acid DHA can reverse harmful effects of fructose
You can avoid the harmful changes caused by high fructose corn syrup by carefully reading food labels. Fructose in the form of corn syrup is added to a growing number of products you would not expect to find it in. Try to get a major portion of your food from whole foods that have no added ingredients, and incorporate plenty of vegetables along with a selection of nutritious fruits.
To reverse any damage done by fructose, be sure to incorporate the omega-3 fatty acid DHA into your diet. Your body cannot produce DHA, but you can supplement your healthy diet with a high-quality DHA supplement or get adequate amounts of DHA from the foods you choose.
DHA is mainly found in animal products such as fish, eggs and meats. Oily fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, and sardines are some of the richest dietary sources, with from 10 to 100 times more DHA than other food sources such as nuts, seeds, whole grains and dark green, leafy vegetables.