Every day, most Americans eat about eight teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup, or about 27 pounds of it a year.
We consume more of it than any other nation on Earth. It’s in your ketchup and your cereal and other processed foods, as well as baby food, soft drinks and places you might not expect to find it, like applesauce.
And although we know it has been linked to obesity, diabetes, cancer and liver disease, we now know it has yet another significant influence on your body — it messes with your brain.
A research study from scientists at UCLA just published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism indicates that processed fructose can prevent the brain from repairing itself. The study was an attempt to understand the effects of fructose on people with traumatic brain injury, a surprisingly common injury. Nearly 2 million people a year in this country are diagnosed with such injuries, and about 50,000 of them die from it.
The study was conducted with lab rats that first were trained to negotiate a maze. Then the rats were subdivided into two groups, with one group being fed plain water to drink and the other given water with fructose in it specifically designed to mimic a human diet that contains high fructose corn syrup. After six weeks of the diet, the rats were put to sleep and given the equivalent of a traumatic brain injury.
Sugar within a 20 oz cola
Large soft drinks, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban in New York, typically contain a staggering amount of high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. Even simple table sugar is typically 50% fructose.
Afterward, when the rats were put through the maze again, the ones that had been eating fructose in their diet took considerably longer — 30% longer — to negotiate the maze.
“Our findings suggest that fructose disrupts plasticity — the creation of fresh pathways between brain cells that occurs when we learn or experience something new,” said Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at UCLA’s medical school and a member of its Brain Injury Research Center. “That’s a huge obstacle for anyone to overcome — but especially for a traumatic brain injury patient, who is often struggling to relearn daily routines and how to care for himself or herself.”
Gomez-Pinilla’s team had previously identified other impacts fructose has on learning and memory.
“Our take-home message can be boiled down to this: Reduce fructose in your diet if you want to protect your brain,”