Bad News: Sugar Damages Your Brain; Good News: It Can Be Reversed


In 2016, we know sugar is bad for us. Fructose, specifically. The sweetener most often associated with honey, soda, and inexpensive liquid sweeteners, can harm us in horrible ways. Scientists commonly point out that, not only, does the addictive stuff effect the inner workings of our body but actually attacks the genetic makeup in our brains. A recent UCLA study found that the genetic shift caused by sugar consumption can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Which is bad news considering that — even with soda consumption dropping —  our high-fructose corn syrup consumption is still at about 27 pounds per person per year.

Luckily for you corn-syrup-loving fiends out there, the UCLA team also shone some light on how we can reverse some of that damage. An Omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, seems to reverse some of the harmful changes to our genes caused by fructose. DHA strengthens synapses in the brain and enhances learning and memory. The miracle oil is abundant in wild salmon (not that bush league farmed stuff) and, to a lesser extent, in fish oil, as well as walnuts, flaxseed, and certain fruits and vegetables.

“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.

Now, don’t get carried away. Although DHA appears to be quite beneficial, Yang said it is not a cure-all. Research up to this point has only been done on rats. Additional research will be needed to be tested on humans in order to determine the extent of DHA’s ability to reverse damage done by sugar to human genes.

“Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain,” said Gomez-Pinilla who is a member of UCLA’s Brain Injury Research Center. He recommends avoiding sugary soft drinks, cutting down on desserts and generally consuming less sugar and saturated fat — which we all kinda already new, but proof (and fear of damaging our brains) is an extra dose of motivation.