Sugar Alters Hundreds Of Brain Genes

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There are many diseases, from nervous system disorders to cardiovascular conditions, that are connected to the changing state of our genes. It’s believed that most of these are a result of dysfunction within our genetics, yet research out of UCLA says that the main reason more and more people are affected by damaged genes is down to our diet.

According to researchers, the increase of fructose in our diet is the leading cause of this damage. While it’s naturally occurring in fruit, where the fibrous nature of the rest of the food slows its absorption into the body, the majority of Americans consume it in highly-processed foods. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the biggest source of fructose, as it’s cheap to manufacture in vast quantities and has overtaken sugar as the sweetener of choice in the food industry. It can be found in drinks, desserts and snacks. The average teenager consumes 12 teaspoons of HFCS per day.

The study saw researchers train a group of rats to navigate and escape a maze. They then divided them into three groups. For six weeks, one group were given water with fructose the equivalent of a liter of soda, another had fructose water and a diet with lots of DHA, and the last had just water with no fructose or DHA.

So what’s DHA? It’s an omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid. “DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable,” said Xia Yang, a senior author of the study and a UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology. “And we can see why it has such a powerful effect.”

After those six weeks, all of the rats were put back into the maze. The group that were given the fructose AND DHA displayed similar signs to the ones who only had plain water: they were able to navigate the maze much faster. This shows how DHA is able to help in reducing the effects of fructose.

While we have DHA in our bodies, the amount is insufficient to help fight off disease. “The brain and the body are deficient in the machinery to make DHA; it has to come through our diet,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and of integrative biology and physiology, and co-senior author of the paper.

Foods high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Mackerel
Salmon
Cod liver oil
Walnuts
Flax seeds
Chia seeds
Herring
Sardines
Beef

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