Researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles found that fructose – a type of sugar naturally found in fruits and vegetables, but also present in soft drinks and sweets – damages brain cells and can lead to a wide range of diseases, from diabetes and heart disease to Alzheimer’s and ADH.
The scientists fed a group of rats for six weeks with fructose-spiked water (the equivalent to about a litre of soft drinks a day for humans). Then they put them in a maze, alongside rats which had drank only water. The rats which had consumed fructose took twice as long to navigate the maze as the water-only group, despite the same level of training – suggesting that their memories had been impaired.
There was however one positive outcome of the experiment: an omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, appeared to reverse the dangerous changes produced by fructose.
A third group of rats which were fed a flaxseed-oil extract rich in omega-3s as well as the fructose water managed to navigate the maze almost as quickly as the water-only group.
DHa is found naturally in fish (especially salmon), nuts, and certain vegetables.
“DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable,” said Xia Yang, a senior author of the study.