A new study into the effects of fructose show alterations to many genes and omega 3 fatty acids may reverse this. The findings have significance for many metabolic and brain conditions which share alterations to the same genes.
Omega 3 and fructose are naturally occurring molecules both may be necessary for optimal human health and brain/body functioning. Importantly, a type of omega 3 called DHA is the main structural component of the brain and essential for the anatomy of the skin and retina. Similarly, fructose may be a source of energy for the cells and may additionally be stored as fat, it is found in fruit and many commercially produced foods because it is perceived to be sweeter than glucose or sucrose.
As with all molecules or constituents of the human diet a high concentration of any of these including water and oxygen may be deleterious to the cells of the body and brain. Previous studies have shown the affects of fructose on the brain; surges in sugar concentration may affect the hippocampus and diminish memory. The evidence however of the deleterious effects of omega 3 fatty acids is limited and the health benefits extensive, the compound is known to be beneficial as an anti-inflammatory and subdue auto-immune conditions.
To assess the biological affects of fructose and DHA on the brain and a host of conditions, a team from the University of California analysed the genetic alterations seen as a result of the two compounds. To achieve this rats were tested in three different groups to establish and document the alterations and biological results. A control consumed plain water, another group water with added fructose and the last group fructose water and DHA were consumed. Rats consuming only fructose showed increased insulin, triglycerides and displayed impaired memory on maze tests. These observations verified how changes to metabolism had a real affect on the cognition of the rats. Rats given DHA sidestepped these cognitive deficits and demonstrated a reversal of these characteristics at a genetic level, remarkably all genes altered by fructose were resumed back to normal functioning when omega 3 was consumed.
The team discovered fructose may influence the genetic and epi-genetic functioning, by reorganising gene networks which are essential for metabolic regulation and the functioning of the brain. The mechanism revealed demonstrated how fructose clearly altered the genes. Firstly, fructose removes or adds a methyl group to DNA this has the effect of impeding the expression of the gene turning it off or silencing it. The process may then initiate a cascade effect where other genes with similar processes involving metabolism and brain functioning are additionally altered.
The 940 genes in the brain regions of the hypothalamus and the hippocampus were termed “fructose signature genes”. These genes have already been robustly associated with cardiovascular conditions, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, brain morphology, Parkinson’s and psychiatric conditions. The altered organisation of the genes in these specific regions specifically affect; metabolism, immune function, inflammation and extracellular communication.
Optimistically, the genetic expression and silencing of genes were reversed by DHA. DHA strengthens synapses in the brain therefore enhancing learning and memory, it is normally found in salmon, walnuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. The cognitive affects on the rats in the maze demonstrated the startling effects the fructose had. The protective and reversing effect DHA had was also significant, seen in the rats given both. Xia Yang senior author commented, “DHA changes the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable.” “The brain and the body are deficient in the machinery to make DHA; it has to come through the diet.”
The study may emphasise how fructose may still be beneficial as an energy source if consumed in moderation and complemented with healthy nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids and regular exercise. It may be evident from this study how the choice of nutrients an individual ingests may be pivotal for all aspects of health. Gomez-Pinilla commented, “Food is like a pharmaceutical compound which affects the brain.”
What do different types of food do to the body and brain?