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Can too much sugar dull the brain?

Posted by: Colleen Stoxen Updated: May 16, 2012 - 10:46 AM

Eating too much sugar can eat away at your brainpower, according to scientists who showed how a steady diet of high-fructose corn syrup sapped lab rats' memories.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles fed two groups of rats a solution containing high-fructose corn syrup -- a common ingredient in processed foods -- as drinking water for six weeks. One group of rats was supplemented with brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), while the other group was not.

Before the sugar drinks began, the rats were enrolled in a five-day training session in a complicated maze. After six weeks on the sweet solution, the rats were then placed back in the maze to see how they fared.

"The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity," said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

A closer look at the rat brains revealed that those who were not fed DHA supplements had also developed signs of resistance to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar and regulates brain function. "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.

"Our study shows that a high-fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body. This is something new."

Read more from AFP.

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