Here’s some troubling news for sugar splurgers: A new study by scientists at UCLA has found that fructose — a sugar that’s nearly impossible to avoid — can damage the brain’s genes and lead to what’s helpfully categorized as a “wide range of diseases,” a slew that spans from usual suspects like diabetes and heart disease to Alzheimer’s and ADHD.
Fructose occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, and honey, but the majority of what’s in most people’s diets comes from sodas, candy, desserts, and other foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup. This research suggests eating too much of these in particular can have a nasty genetic effect, potentially setting you up for more than just a cushier midsection. (Of course, this isn’t the first time scientists have speculated that too much fructose could lead to diabetes, heart problems, and other health issues.)
For their experiment, the authors essentially fed a group of rats the equivalent of a liter of soda every day for six weeks. They then put them in a maze and compared their times to a control group’s (these lucky rats just got plain H2O). The group that was Bloomberg’s rodent nightmare incarnate took twice as long to escape, leading researchers to conclude the high-fructose diet was screwing with their memories.
But the scientists were much more hopeful about a separate finding that involved a third rat group. They were given the Big Gulp diet, but it was suffused with a flaxseed-oil extract that’s rich in omega-3s, the fatty wonder acid found in fish, nuts, and certain veggies. They completed the maze at almost the same speed as the water-only group. So according to them, the good news is it may be possible to cancel out the damage by just eating salmon before every cupcake you consume — no big deal, right?