Image

Sugars and refined carbohydrates play a role in causing tooth decay. A recent UCLA study indicates sugars may also cause memory and learning issues! Omega-3 fatty acids may help counteract this, and will also help with periodontal disease. So limit those sugars, and break out the fish oil, or better yet, eat more salmon. If fish oil capsules give you a fishy aftertaste, try the krill oil capsules. The study is described below:

6/6/12 This is your brain on sugar: UCLA study shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory / UCLA…
newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/PRN-this-is-your-brain-on-sugar-ucla-233992.aspx 1/2
Fernando Gomez-Pinilla
UCLA Newsroom > All Stories > News Releases
This is your brain on sugar: UCLA study shows highfructose
diet sabotages learning, memory
Eating more omega-3 fatty acids can offset damage, researchers say
By Elaine Schmidt May 15, 2012
[Correction: Paragraph 5 of this release was changed from an earlier version
to reflect that the study focused on fructose generally, not specifically on
high-fructose corn syrup; that high-fructose corn syrup is not necessarily
“six times sweeter” than cane sugar; and that Americans consume
approximately 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per capita annually, not
“more than 40 pounds.” The researcher’s quote in Paragraph 6 has also
been changed slightly to avoid the implication that the study focused solely
on high-fructose corn syrup.]
Attention, college students cramming between midterms and finals:
Binging on soda and sweets for as little as six weeks may make you
stupid.
A new UCLA rat study is the first to show how a diet steadily high in
fructose slows the brain, hampering memory and learning — and how
omega-3 fatty acids can counteract the disruption. The peer-reviewed
Journal of Physiology publishes the findings in its May 15 edition.
“Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,” said
Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen
School of Medicine at UCLA and a professor of integrative biology and
physiology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science. “Eating a highfructose
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.”
While earlier research has revealed how fructose harms the body through its role in diabetes, obesity
and fatty liver, this study is the first to uncover how the sweetener influences the brain.
Sources of fructose in the Western diet include cane sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup, an
inexpensive liquid sweetener. The syrup is widely added to processed foods, including soft drinks,
condiments, applesauce and baby food. The average American consumes roughly 47 pounds of cane
sugar and 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year, according to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture.
“We’re less concerned about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important
antioxidants,” explained Gomez-Pinilla, who is also a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute and
Brain Injury Research Center. “We’re more concerned about the fructose in high-fructose corn syrup,
which is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative.”
Gomez-Pinilla and study co-author Rahul Agrawal, a UCLA visiting postdoctoral fellow from India, studied
two groups of rats that each consumed a fructose solution as drinking water for six weeks. The second
group also received omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA),
which protects against damage to the synapses — the chemical connections between brain cells that
enable memory and learning.
“DHA is essential for synaptic function — brain cells’ ability to transmit signals to one another,” Gomez6/
6/12 This is your brain on sugar: UCLA study shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory / UCLA…
newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/PRN-this-is-your-brain-on-sugar-ucla-233992.aspx 2/2
Pinilla said. “This is the mechanism that makes learning and memory possible. Our bodies can’t produce
enough DHA, so it must be supplemented through our diet.”
The animals were fed standard rat chow and trained on a maze twice daily for five days before starting
the experimental diet. The UCLA team tested how well the rats were able to navigate the maze, which
contained numerous holes but only one exit. The scientists placed visual landmarks in the maze to help
the rats learn and remember the way.
Six weeks later, the researchers tested the rats’ ability to recall the route and escape the maze. What
they saw surprised them.
“The second group of rats navigated the maze much faster than the rats that did not receive omega-3
fatty acids,” Gomez-Pinilla said. “The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brains showed a
decline in synaptic activity. 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.”
The DHA-deprived rats also developed signs of resistance to insulin, a hormone that controls blood
sugar and regulates synaptic function in the brain. A closer look at the rats’ brain tissue suggested that
insulin had lost much of its power to influence the brain cells.
“Because insulin can penetrate the blood–brain barrier, the hormone may signal neurons to trigger
reactions that disrupt learning and cause memory loss,” Gomez-Pinilla said.
He suspects that fructose is the culprit behind the DHA-deficient rats’ brain dysfunction. Eating too much
fructose could block insulin’s ability to regulate how cells use and store sugar for the energy required for
processing thoughts and emotions.
“Insulin is important in the body for controlling blood sugar, but it may play a different role in the brain,
where insulin appears to disturb memory and learning,” he said. “Our study shows that a high-fructose
diet harms the brain as well as the body. This is something new.”
Gomez-Pinilla, a native of Chile and an exercise enthusiast who practices what he preaches, advises
people to keep fructose intake to a minimum and swap sugary desserts for fresh berries and Greek
yogurt, which he keeps within arm’s reach in a small refrigerator in his office. An occasional bar of dark
chocolate that hasn’t been processed with a lot of extra sweetener is fine too, he said.
Still planning to throw caution to the wind and indulge in a hot-fudge sundae? Then also eat foods rich in
omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds, or take a daily DHA capsule. Gomez-Pinilla
recommends one gram of DHA per day.
“Our findings suggest that consuming DHA regularly protects the brain against fructose’s harmful
effects,” said Gomez-Pinilla. “It’s like saving money in the bank. You want to build a reserve for your
brain to tap when it requires extra fuel to fight off future diseases.”
The UCLA study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Gomez-
Pinilla’s lab will next examine the role of diet in recovery from brain trauma.
The UCLA Department of Neurosurgery is committed to providing the most comprehensive patient care
through innovative clinical programs in minimally invasive brain and spinal surgery; neuroendoscopy;
neuro-oncology for both adult and pediatric brain tumors; cerebrovascular surgery; stereotactic
radiosurgery for brain and spinal disorders; surgery for movement disorders such as Parkinson’s
disease; and epilepsy surgery. For 20 consecutive years, the department has been ranked among the
top 10 neurosurgery programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
For more news, visit the UCLA Newsroom and follow us on Twitter.
© 2012 UC Regents