Lab rats forgot how to escape a maze after binging on fructose (sugar) water, a UCLA research team found. But ones fed omega-3s had significantly better times.
Researchers trained 24 rats to run a maze and then assigned them to a diet enriched with or without the omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and with or without a sugar solution. Six weeks later, rats ran the maze again from memory. The results: omega-3s boosted memory and sugar water hampered it.
“Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of integrative biology and physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. “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.”
According to Dr. Gomez-Pinilla, eating too much fructose (a sugar found in cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and fruit) could block insulin’s ability to regulate how cells use and store sugar for the energy required for processing thoughts and emotions.
“Insulin is important in the body for controlling blood sugar, but it may play a different role in the brain, where insulin appears to disturb memory and learning,” he said. “Our study shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body. This is something new.”
The UCLA study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Gomez-Pinilla’s lab will next examine the role of diet in recovery from brain trauma.
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