Does Sugar Make You Stupid?
Research appearing in the Journal of Physiology (Published online before print April 2, 2012, doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.230078 May 1, 2012) looked at sugar consumption in rats and how it affected their ability to learn complex tasks. Scientists at UCLA conducted a five-day training session, teaching the rats how to navigate a complicated maze.
After the training session, the rats were divided into two groups. One group was given an omega-3 fatty acid mixture containing flaxseed oil and DHA, the other group was not. For six weeks, both groups of rats were fed a solution containing high fructose corn syrup instead of water.
At the end of the six weeks, the rats were then given the opportunity to navigate the maze. “The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats’ ability to think clearly and recall the route they’d learned six weeks earlier.”
Sugar consumption interfered with the regulation of how the cells use and store sugar (insulin resistance). Because of the problems with sugar and cellular energy production, the rats’ brain function was affected.
Examination of the brains of the rats not fed the omega-3/DHA supplement revealed signs of insulin insensitivity. The study showed that high-fructose corn syrup harms the brain as well as the body. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids seems to offer some protection from the damage done by sugar consumption.
“Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,” said Gomez-Pinilla. “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.”