TAG | brain function
It is no secret that sugar is unhealthy. From high blood sugar to diabetes and heart disease, a diet high in sugar has far-reaching effects. But did you know that sugar is also bad for your brain? A recent study published in the Journal of Physiology found an interesting connection between a diet low in omega-3s and high in the sugar fructose, and poor memory and brain function. The researchers stated, “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.”
In the animal study, one group was fed a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids, and another group was fed a diet high in omega-3s from flaxseed and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The omega-3 deficient animals were found to have poor memory function when compared to those fed a diet rich in omega-3s. The negative effects of a low omega-3 diet were exacerbated when high amounts of fructose were added to the diet. In the group receiving sufficient omega-3s, however, a high fructose diet did not have the same negative effects on memory and neuron function, suggesting that omega-3s have a protective effect against the brain dysfunction caused by a high fructose diet.
It is well known that a high sugar diet increases blood sugar and insulin resistance in the bloodstream. This is the hallmark of the metabolic syndrome, an increasingly common condition that precedes type 2 diabetes. This study suggests that not only can a high sugar diet have effects in the bloodstream, but that it can also have similar effects in the brain. The study found disrupted insulin receptor signaling in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory function. Insulin and fructose are both known to cross the blood-brain barrier, where they can interrupt neuron function.
The findings of this study are not surprising. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is also known as type 3 diabetes. The fact is, the amount of sugar—and even carbohydrates, for that matter—in the Standard American Diet (SAD) is alarmingly high. ReNew Life founder Brenda Watson will be debuting a new PBS show in the fall on this very topic. The show, called The Heart of Perfect Health will air nationwide in November. Stay tuned to our blog for more information on show times.
We already know that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids from fish is linked to heart health, better digestion and healthy brain function. Now new evidence shows that eating more fish-derived Omega-3s might help lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a condition that affects nearly 2 million older adults every year in the United States and causes a loss of vision due to damage to the retina.
Published in the journal Ophthalmology, findings from a recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins University show that older adults who eat one or more servings of fish weekly tend to have lower rates of AMD. Not only that, but regular fish eaters are 60 percent less likely to have advanced AMD than those who consume fish less than once a week. Scientists believe that the natural properties in fish-derived Omega-3s help to nourish and protect the delicate tissues of the eye.
While more research is planned to further investigate the role of Omega-3s and eye health, experts recommend increasing your intake of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna to get the health benefits of fish-derived Omega-3s. For those who don’t like fish, a daily fish oil supplement provides a great alternative—just remember to look for a highly concentrated formula with lipase, a powerful fat-digesting enzyme that helps your body break down and use the healthy oils.