A new study has found that consuming high levels of fructose (from added sugars) harms a whopping 940 brain genes. This is a nutrigenomic study, a study in which researchers specifically study how food effects gene expression. These types of studies show us exactly how food effects the way our bodies operate and are critical in understanding our relationship to food.
We’ve known for a long time that consuming a diet high in sugar results in a number of negative health consequences. But now we can actually see how added sugars change our brain in a negative way. The researchers found that 734 hypothalamic genes were altered as well as 206 hippocampal genes. These genes govern separate but extremely important areas of the brain: cell metabolism, cell communication, inflammation, and overall brain function. In other words, these are not genes that you want to be altered in any way.
According to The Health and Sciences Academy, “…certain alterations can lead to leptin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, depression, and bipolar disorder.”
On a brighter note, the same study also found that Omega-3 oil DHA “has the potential to normalize the genomic impact of fructose.” This means that including enough DHA in your diet can help to offset the gene alterations caused by the added sugars. DHA can be found in fish, fish oil supplements, and some egg and dairy products like ghee.
Ideally, it’s best to avoid added sugar as much as possible. So always substitute for lower sugar options if they’re available (just avoid artificial sweeteners) and get familiar with the labels on the products you use at home. As an added note, fruits do not count as added sugar so long as the entire fruit is consumed (not fruit juice). Fruits naturally contain fibre, which helps slow the body’s absorption of sugar. This makes them an ideal sweet snack so stock up on and enjoy the next time a sugar craving hits. Your brain will thank you for it.