Another academic study is blaming high-fructose corn syrup for some of Americans' health issues. The latest comes from UCLA, where researchers contend that fructose, which occurs both naturally in fruits and vegetables but is also an additive, damages brain cells.
Their research also links the sweetener to diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and ADH. The scientists reached their conclusions after conducting a series of experiments involving laboratory animals. They published their results in The Lancet, a medical journal.
In recent months attention has focused on Americans' consumption of sweetened foods and beverages as a contributor to rising obesity rates. In 2013, California considered mandating warning labels on products with high added sugar content.
A way to reverse the damage
This latest research came up with an antidote, of sorts. It found that when people consumed an omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, it seemed to reverse the damage triggered by fructose.
“DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable,” said Xia Yang, a senior author of the study and a UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology.
Brain cells produce some DHA on their own, but the amount is not large enough to help fight disease. Reinforcing natural DHA with foods high in the omega-3 provides adequate reinforcement.
Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and of integrative biology and physiology, says the finding simply reinforces the reason people need to eat the right food. Your body, he says, can't produce all the nutrients it needs – the rest has to come through diet.
Where to get DHA
Sources of DHA include walnuts, fruits, vegetables, wild salmon, and other fish.
High-fructose corn syrup is made from corn starch and is used in a wide variety of processed foods and beverages. The UCLA researchers cite a U.S. Department of Agriculture study which estimates that Americans consumed about 27 pounds of the sweetener in 2014.
While fruit also contains fructose, the researchers say it is less harmful, with the fiber in the fruit slowing the body's absorption of the sweetener. Fruit also contains nutrients that are beneficial to the brain.
“Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain,” said Gomez-Pinilla.
To ensure those effects are positive, he suggests avoiding sugary soft drinks, saving desserts for special occasions, and trying to reduce the overall amount of sugar and saturated fate in your diet.