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article imageOp-Ed: Sugar makes you stupid, if it doesn’t try to kill you as well

By Paul Wallis     May 15, 2012 in Health
Sydney - Sugar can do horrible things to your brain. It effectively sabotages synapses, according to a new study. Given that the average American (That poor bastard, didn’t know he was still around) consumes 40kg of sugar per year, that’s not great news.
According to Science Daily, tests with rats have found some proof of the effects of high fructose sugars, the same type used as sweeteners, on the brain:
Gomez-Pinilla and study co-author Rahul Agrawal, a UCLA visiting postdoctoral fellow from India, studied two groups of rats that each consumed a fructose solution as drinking water for six weeks. The second group also received omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which protects against damage to the synapses -- the chemical connections between brain cells that enable memory and learning.
The result was that the first group eating the fructose were a mess when they did their maze tests. These were mazes with which the rats were already familiar. They were slow and compared very badly to the other group. The group that also got the DHA were much faster, and it was discovered that the DHA protected their nerves from the effects of the sugars.
Much worse were some indicators that the sugar actually created a resistance to insulin (that’d also explain the Type 2 diabetes plague in humans quite nicely) and even memory was affected. Insulin isn’t just about regulating sugar. It also has important brain functions, and insulin resistance is therefore not good at all:
The DHA-deprived rats also developed signs of resistance to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar and regulates synaptic function in the brain. A closer look at the rats' brain tissue suggested that insulin had lost much of its power to influence the brain cells.
"Because insulin can penetrate the blood-brain barrier, the hormone may signal neurons to trigger reactions that disrupt learning and cause memory loss," Gomez-Pinilla said.
Given the equally serious plague of memory-affecting medical conditions, while there’s no direct link made with sweeteners as contributors to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, joining the dots between diet and onset of diseases affecting memory is pretty much unavoidable. The Western diet, in fact, is heavy on these sweeteners, and the West is where these diseases are worst. Add to this the fact that high fructose is also known to feed cancers, and this class of food additives has to go.
There’s another angle here. The corn syrup sweeteners are almost universal in food technology, and have been for decades. Retooling for safer sweeteners can’t happen overnight, although there are no real obstacles to simply introducing them. The cost factor is hardly likely to be an incentive to food manufacturers. A lot of suppliers could be in big trouble, too, because they’d have to either retool to cut down the sugar content or switch to other products.
The public, ironically, is in the driver’s seat here. If people simply don’t buy the high fructose sweeteners, and the industry will be forced into adjusting. It’s unlikely that governments, particularly the totally dysfunctional US government in the middle of an election year, could actually get anything moving quickly.
Personally, I’m just on my way to check every single thing in my cupboards for sweeteners. If I see “fructose corn syrup” it’s heading for the trash, ASAP.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about UCLA, High fructose corn syrup, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimers Disease, food industry sweeteners
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