May 30th, 2012
VigilantCitizen- In the series of articles entitled Dumbing Down Society, I described the many negative effects of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) on general health. This high-powered sweetener is found in a great number of sugary processed foods such as jams, soft drinks and pre-packaged baked goods. It is also found in other products that are no so sugary such as soups, breads, pasta sauces, cereals, frozen entrees, meat products, salad dressings and condiments. Research links HFCS to increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in North America, especially among children. Fructose converts to fat more than any other sugar. And being a liquid, it passes much more quickly into the blood stream.
A recent study now claims that HFCS not only makes you fat, it also makes you dumb(er). According to a team from University of California, the sweetener actually disrupts basic brain functions. Fortunately, these negative effects can be reduced with the consumption Omega-3s, a fatty acid that was discussed in the article Dumbing-Down Society Part 3: How to Reverse its Effects. Here’s an article about the study on HFCS.
Does sugar make you stupid? Study suggests it sabotages learning and memory
- Fructose is commonly added to processed foods such as soft drinks
- It was found to hamper memory and slow brain activity
Too much sugar could be making you stupid, according to researchers.
The suggestion follows tests in the laboratory comparing high-fructose corn syrup, which is six times sweeter than cane sugar and a common ingredient in processed foods, with omega-3 fatty acids, known to aid memory and learning.
In an experiment on rats, one group had a sugary diet for six weeks and another was fed healthily.
At the start of the study, published in the Journal of Physiology, the University of California team tested how well the rats navigated a maze – placing landmarks to help them learn the way.
Six weeks later, the researchers tested the rats’ ability to recall the route.
Study co-author Professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla said the rats fed just a sugary diet were slower and their brains had declined.
He said: ‘Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information.
However, the good news is that eating nuts and fish such as salmon can counteract this disruption.
‘Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think,’ said Prof Gomez-Pinilla. ‘Adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimise 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.
The researchers were studying the impact of high-fructose corn syrup on rats, who have similar brain chemistry to humans.
The inexpensive liquid is six times sweeter than cane sugar and is commonly added to processed foods such as soft drinks.
‘We’re not talking about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants,’ said Prof Gomez-Pinilla.
‘We’re concerned about high-fructose corn syrup that is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative.’
Prof Gomez-Pinilla and co-author Rahul Agrawal found the brain’s of the rats that each consumed a fructose solution as drinking water for six weeks had changed.
Prof Gomez-Pinilla said: ‘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.’
A closer look at the rats’ brain tissue suggested that insulin had lost much of its power to influence the brain cells.
The authors suspect that 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.
However, their study also suggests that eating foods rich in omega-3 regularly could protect the brain from the effects of fructose.
Prof Gomez-Pinilla said: ‘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.’
– Source: Daily Mail
What Eating Too Much Sugar Does to Your Brain
Overeating, poor memory formation, learning disorders, depression – all have been linked in recent research to the over-consumption of sugar. And these linkages point to a problem that is only beginning to be better understood: what our chronic intake of added sugar is doing to our brains.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar per year. That’s five grocery store shelves loaded with 30 or so one pound bags of sugar each. If you find that hard to believe, that’s probably because sugar is so ubiquitous in our diets that most of us have no idea how much we’re consuming. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) puts the amount at 27.5 teaspoons of sugar a day per capita, which translates to 440 calories – nearly one quarter of a typical 2000 calorie a day diet.
The key word in all of the stats is “added.” While a healthy diet would contain a significant amount of naturally occurring sugar (in fruits and grains, for example), the problem is that we’re chronically consuming much more added sugar in processed foods. That’s an important clarification because our brains need sugar every day to function. Brain cells require two times the energy needed by all the other cells in the body; roughly 10% of our total daily energy requirements. This energy is derived from glucose (blood sugar), the gasoline of our brains. Sugar is not the brain’s enemy — added sugar is.
Research indicates that a diet high in added sugar reduces the production of a brain chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Without BDNF, our brains can’t form new memories and we can’t learn (or remember) much of anything. Levels of BDNF are particularly low in people with an impaired glucose metabolism–diabetics and pre-diabetics–and as the amount of BDNF decreases, sugar metabolism worsens.
In other words, chronically eating added sugar reduces BDNF, and then the lowered levels of the brain chemical begin contributing to insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which eventually leads to a host of other health problems. Once that happens, your brain and body are in a destructive cycle that’s difficult if not impossible to reverse.
Research has also linked low BDNF levels to depression and dementia. It’s possible that low BDNF may turn out to be the smoking gun in these and other diseases, like Alzheimer’s, that tend to appear in clusters in epidemiological studies. More research is being conducted on this subject, but what seems clear in any case is that a reduced level of BDNF is bad news for our brains, and chronic sugar consumption is one of the worst inhibitory culprits.
Other studies have focused on sugar’s role in over-eating. We intuitively know that sugar and obesity are linked, but the exact reason why hasn’t been well understood until recently. Research has shown that chronic consumption of added sugar dulls the brain’s mechanism for telling you to stop eating. It does so by reducing activity in the brain’s anorexigenic oxytocin system, which is responsible for throwing up the red “full” flag that prevents you from gorging. When oxytocin cells in the brain are blunted by over-consumption of sugar, the flag doesn’t work correctly and you start asking for seconds and thirds, and seeking out snacks at midnight.
What these and other studies strongly suggest is that most of us are seriously damaging ourselves with processed foods high in added sugar, and the damage begins with our brains. Seen in this light, chronic added-sugar consumption is no less a problem than smoking or alcoholism. And the hard truth is that we may have only begun to see the effects of what the endless sugar avalanche is doing to us.