Smarties beware: A new study found that high-frucrose (high-sugar) diets can actually hurt your brain cells.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that a high level of fructose can develop insulin resistance in rats, changing how brain cells use and store sugar.
The study, published in the Journal of Physiology, taught two groups of rats to recognize the way out of a maze with visual cues. The rats were then fed fructose water for six weeks, with one group getting an additional dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
After six weeks, the researchers tested the rats' recollection of the maze. The omega-3 group made it through the maze much faster than the fructose-only group, researchers say.
According to study researcher Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, the fructose-only group had developed insulin resistance in their brains. "Their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity. Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats' ability to think clearly and recall the route they'd learned six weeks earlier," he said.
The researchers believe omega-3 fatty acids could prohibit the brain disruption, whereas a lack of omega-3 "elevates the vulnerability to metabolic dysfunction and impaired cognitive functions." According to Harvard University, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and some vegetable oils like canola.
Lucky for fruit lovers, the researchers focused on fructose found in high-fructose corn syrup, rather than natural sugars in fruits, so perhaps lay off the lollipops and Coca-Cola when studying for an exam.