The use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been long associated with fatty liver disease, diabetes and increases in obesity, but a new study has investigated its effects on the brain. HFCS is an inexpensive ingredient added to fast food and fizzy drinks and is 6 times sweeter than sugar obtained from sugar cane.
The study by UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) studied the effect of HFCS on rats, who have similar brain chemistry to humans. The rats were trained in a maze for five days before the experimental diet began. The maze had only one exit and contained visual clues so as to help the rats remember the way through the maze to the exit. The rats were separated into two groups, both given HFCS solution as drinking water but one had food fortified with omega-3′s. The rats were then tested in the maze 6 weeks after the training period.
It was found that the rats that had been given the omega-3′s were much better at finding their way through the maze, indicating that they had remembered the way. However, the rats that had been given only the HFCS had a much reduced ability to find the exit. On closer inspection of the rats brain tissue, it was found that insulin had little or no effect on brain cells in those from the HFCS group. The authors of the study suspect that consuming too much HFCS could block the ability of insulin to regulate how brain cells store sugar for energy requires for processing thoughts.
Professor Gomez-Pinilla said, “The brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats ability to think clearly and recall the route they’d learned six weeks earlier. We’re concerned about high-fructose corn syrup that is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative. We’re not talking about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants.”