We already know that sugar is the devil and has scarily addictive properties. Now, a new study by UCLA life scientists reveals there’s a solution to sugar’s negative side effects: omega-3 fatty acids.
Researchers found that hundreds of changed genes in the brain, damaged by fructose, can lead to ailments like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s. They also found that diets rich in omega-3s, or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), can reverse those negative effects produced by fructose. While DHA occurs naturally in brain cells, there is not a large enough quantity to fight disease. Enter: wild salmon, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
"DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable," Xia Yang, a senior author of the study and a UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology says in the report.
To get these results, scientists conducted an experiment where they trained rats to escape from a maze, then randomly divided them into three groups. One drank water with enough fructose equivalent to a human drinking a liter of soda a day, one also drank fructose water but was given a diet rich in DHA, one had no DHA and drank plain water. What researchers found after making the rats go through the maze again six weeks later is that those given fructose had impaired their memory and led to higher blood glucose, insulin levels, and triglycerides (which, in humans, are all linked to obesity and diabetes). The rats that drank fructose water with DHA completed the maze as fast as rats that drank plain water, indicating DHA eliminated fructose’s harmful effects.
"Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain," Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, UCLA professor of neurosurgery and co-senior author of the paper, says.
Now you know. While the researchers ultimately advise against desserts and soda, and recommend eating less sugar overall, if you do decide to go on a dessert binge (it’s okay, remember?) you’ve just gotta make sure you’re having salmon for dinner.