We already know what sugar can do to our waistline and our teeth, but scientists now say it could have a detrimental impact on another part of our body; the brain. In fact, they suggest it could make us dumb.
Researchers at the School of Medicine at UCLA admit their conclusions are based on testing of lab rats, but believe comparing it to humans is not too far-fetched. The research team took two groups of rats and sent them into an intricate maze for 5 days. The rats were then removed and fed high-fructose corn syrup for 6 straight weeks. One group of lab rats also received brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. Both groups were put back into the maze. The rats that only consumed the fructose experienced low brain performance. They couldn’t think clearly and were unable to recall the route they learned just weeks earlier. Brain exams also showed signs of insulin resistance. Previous human studies have shown that insulin penetrates the blood-brain barrier and may signal neurons to trigger a disruption in the learning process.
Both the UCLA researchers and other scientists who have looked at the performance of sugar in the brain suspect that eating too much sugar could interfere with insulin’s ability to regulate how cells store sugar, which is required for developing and processing thoughts.
How Your Good Health is at Risk – Sugar Confusion
Some medical experts are reacting to this latest news about sugar and the brain with a little skepticism. Many believe sugar can actually enhance brain performance. The American Journal of Nutrition for instance has reported the opposite…that it improves people’s memory and attention. The information was based on human studies using lemonade sweetened with glucose and saccharin. Following the study, the researchers did explain that the range of glucose makes a huge difference. Essentially, if you have too much glucose it can impair brain performance and if you have just the right amount, it can improve brain performance.
Some scientists say the link between sugar and brain performance is nothing new. Reports released 10 years ago outlined the negative impact that sugar could have on the human brain. One example of this is a 2002 Princeton University study that showed sugar is highly addictive; mimicking some of the features of drug dependency.
The Effect on Brain Health
There is also evidence that suggests the brain reacts differently depending on the kind of sugar being consumed. For example, studies have shown that in certain regions of the brain, performance goes up when glucose is consumed and performance goes down when fructose is consumed. Most of the sugar we find at the grocery store or experience in restaurants has a combination of fructose and sucrose. Sucrose is normally a molecule of glucose and fructose linked together.
Those who are counting calories need to be conscious of fructose intake. The body has limited storage space for fructose so it can easily lead to weight gain. The body does need a certain amount of sugar (glucose) in order to be energized. This can be attained through fresh fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and brown rice. It is no secret that these foods are part of overall good health. The researchers involved in the UCLA brain/sugar study believe people who are counting calories and avoiding foods like candy, fudge and cake are on the right path for more than one reason; it makes good brain sense and good health sense.