Scientists at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have bad news for people with a sweet tooth
– not only does sugar rot our teeth and make us fat, it may be making us stupid too. But DHA, a chemical found it fish oils, could help reduce the effects.
In their study, they used rats to investigate how brain activity responds to sugar. They gave one group of rats a solution of high-fructose corn syrup (used in many of our favourite sweet foods) instead of water, for six weeks. They also gave half of the rats omega-3 fatty acid supplements, containing DHA, renowned for its brain-booting properties. Before they began the programme, the rats were trained for six days on a maze and tested on how well they navigated it.
After six weeks on their new diet, the rats were once again tested on their ability to navigate the maze. The difference between the two groups of rats was significant. The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brain cells had trouble signalling each other, disrupting the rats' ability to think clearly and recall the route they'd learned six weeks earlier. The researchers also discovered that the rats without the DHA supplement had begun to develop a resistance to insulin, the hormone that regulates how cells in the body store and use sugar.
The researchers said insulin is important in the body for controlling blood sugar, but it may play a different role in the brain, where insulin appears to disturb memory and learning. Their advice: cut down on the sweet stuff and eat more fruit and veg instead.