In a study at the University of California Los Angeles, scientists provided one set of rats with plain water to drink while offering another set of rats exclusively water sweetened with fructose. The fructose water was designed to mimic the nutrient content of soft drinks.
All rats had been trained how to find their way out of a special maze, but the fructose fed rats forgot their way out and navigated the maze much more slowly than the standard fed rats.
The mental impairment seen in the fructose fed rats seemed to relate to changes in brain structure that reduced the rats' ability to learn and remember. The high sugar diet appeared to damage synapses, the physical points of communication between brain cells.
A healthy brain cell has plenty of energy. A normal rat brain cell makes energy from glucose found in the blood which ultimately comes from the food the rat eats.
Chronically high blood sugar from the fructose feeding damages rat brain cells by overwhelming the cellular machinery responsible for making energy. In the human body, the same inability to produce energy using blood sugar is linked to diabetes and obesity. Along with cardiovascular disease, this cluster of symptoms is known as the metabolic syndrome. Similar to rats, metabolic syndrome in humans is clearly related to excess carbohydrate consumption.
Research is surfacing linking the damaging effect of metabolic syndrome to a decline in human brain function. Studies have found excessive carbohydrate consumption heightened risks for Alzheimer's disease and depression. Subtle brain damage appears to occur when the brain is under pressure from too much sugar.
One more reason to eat well.
Omega-3 Fats Can Protect
Interestingly, fructose fed rats who were also fed omega-3 fats from fish oil did nearly as well as the rats fed the standard diet.
Omega-3 fats may also protect human brains from damage. Omega-3 fats seem to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's according to several studies, and have also been shown in numerous studies to lower the risk of depression and even to help treat mood disorders.
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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Research and nutritional information included is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease and should not be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Consult your physician before initiating any new dietary or supplement program. References available by request.