Food for Thought: Are You on a High-Fructose Diet?
NDTV Food | Updated: April 26, 2016 11:40 IST
With several countries enforcing new rules to curb sugar in foods in a conscious movement to beat diabetes and other lifestyle diseases, we know now that the culprit is out. And along with it, it has brought to the limelight various food products which we had earlier devoured with all our hearts without knowing the harmful consequences to our health.
One could argue that sugar has incredible properties. It is amazing how a freshly baked doughnut can lift your mood or a bite of a rasgulla can drive away the blues. But then again, even if you convince yourself that these are occasional indulgences, what about that heavy dollop of ketchup with those samosas or pakoras? The packaged fruit juice for a light refreshment? The biscuits to go with your evening tea? Or a scoop of ice cream to beat the summer heat? Look closely, they are nothing but sugar. And that’s all we are eating. And too much of something is never good for you.Natural occurring sugar in food is still alright for your diet, but the added sugars (or free sugars) are what we need to avoid such as sucrose, fructose etc. According to WHO, only 5% of our daily calorie intake should consist of added sugars, which amounts to about 5-7 teaspoons.
A recent study done by the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) states that fructose, a sugar common in the western diet, can damage hundreds of brain genes in a way that could lead to a range of diseases - from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, and from Alzheimer's to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
So how does one cut down? To begin with, keep a track of your daily sugar intake and start reading labels of food products to understand what they contain. Be conscious of what you eat. Yes, sugar gives that much need happy boost to make you feel good, but too much of it can cause serious ailments to your health. So start checking.
There is some good news too: the UCLA researchers have also discovered that an omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) seems to reverse the harmful changes produced 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, assistant professor at UCLA.
“DHA enhances learning and memory. It is abundant in wild salmon (but not in farmed salmon) and, to a lesser extent, in other fish and fish oil, as well as walnuts, flaxseed, and fruits and vegetables,” co-senior author Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, an UCLA professor, pointed out.
The research was published online in the journal EBioMedicine.
To test the effects of fructose and DHA, the researchers trained rats to escape from a maze, and then randomly divided the animals into three groups. For the next six weeks, one group of rats drank water with an amount of fructose that would be roughly equivalent to a person drinking a liter of soda per day. The second group was given fructose water and a diet rich in DHA. The third received water without fructose and no DHA.
After the six weeks, the rats were put through the maze again. The animals that had been given only the fructose navigated the maze about half as fast than the rats that drank only water - indicating that the fructose diet had impaired their memory.
The rats that had been given fructose and DHA, however, showed very similar results to those that only drank water - which strongly suggests that the DHA eliminated fructose's harmful effects.
Other tests on the rats revealed more major differences: The rats receiving a high-fructose diet had much higher blood glucose, triglycerides and insulin levels than the other two groups. Those results are significant because in humans, elevated glucose, triglycerides and insulin are linked to obesity, diabetes and many other diseases.
The research team sequenced more than 20,000 genes in the rats' brains, and identified more than 900 genes that were altered by the fructose. The altered genes they identified, the vast majority of which are comparable to genes in humans, are among those that interact to regulate metabolism, cell communication and inflammation.
Among the conditions that can be caused by alterations to those genes are Parkinson's disease, depression, bipolar disorder, and other brain diseases, Yang said.
So maybe it would be advisable if you start including omega-3 foods in your regular diet. It’s time for some change.
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