The standard American diet is loaded with fructose. And not the healthy, high-in-fiber, straight-from-the-fruit kind, but the heavily processed kind that shows up in the form of added sugars. The problem? All that fructose seems to be getting in the way of healthy brain function, harming specific genes linked to our physical and mental health—but researchers at the University of California believe Omega-3 DHA may help reverse some of that damage.
Based on their findings from a recent study involving mice, a high-fructose diet can damage brain genes linked to learning and memory as well as several others associated with metabolic disorders linked to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. However, the Omega-3 fatty acid DHA was able to counteract much of the damage done to the brain by fructose.
“DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable,” said UCLA assistant professor Xia Yang. For the study, Yang and a team of researchers trained mice to escape from a maze before dividing them into three groups: one fed a high-fructose diet; one fed a high-fructose, high-DHA diet; and a control group fed a diet with no fructose or DHA.
Six weeks later, when the mice were returned to the maze, the fructose-only rats struggled. They were about 50 percent slower than the others, and they also exhibited elevated blood sugar, insulin, and triglyceride levels typically associated with heart disease, diabetes and obesity. In contrast, the fructose-DHA rats had similar success to the control group, prompting scientists to conclude that the DHA successfully counteracted the damaging effects of too much fructose.
Because our bodies produce very little Omega-3 DHA on their own, it must be obtained through the diet—either from food sources such as oily fish and fish oil supplements.