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Can sugar make you stupid?

Jun 22, 2012

Parents of pre-school children are more likely than not to be familiar with the term “sugar high.” But new research indicates that high amounts of sweets can do more than make you hyper and rot your teeth.

A recent study has revealed that diets unusually high in sucrose, or cane sugar, and the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup, can also impair memory and learning ability. 

“Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, one of the study’s authors and a professor of integrative biology and physiology at UCLA.  

“We’re not talking about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants. We’re concerned about high-fructose corn syrup that is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative,” he added.

In the study the research team trained rats to navigate a maze after feeding them only water and standard rat chow for five consecutive days. For the next six weeks after that half the rats were given flaxseed oil and fish oil, both omega-3 fatty acids antioxidants. After six weeks of  consuming the fructose syrup, all the rats were slower at running the maze but those fed the omega-3’s were slightly faster.

"I was very shocked to see how strong an effect these diets could have on the brain—I have high concern that the foods people eat can really affect mood and cognition," Gomez-Pinilla said. “But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage.”

High-fructose corn syrup is cheaper than table sugar and is commonly added to soft drinks, condiments and other processed foods.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that the average person in the U.S. consumes more than 60 pounds of it annually. Add to that the average American’s annual consumption of cane and beet sugar, both which also contain fructose, and many American diets are saturated with more sweeteners than their bodies can process.

Sources: Red, National Geographic, Live Science, WebMD

Copyright 2012, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC 

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