The UCLA scientists found that fructose may damage genes in the brain, playing a role in changes in the brain linked to diseases ranging from diabetes to cardiovascular disease and from Alzheimer’s disease to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
However, the researchers discovered good news as well: An omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, seems to reverse the harmful changes produced by fructose.
Senior author Xia Yang said that DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable. “And we can see why it has such a powerful effect.”
DHA occurs naturally in the membranes of our brain cells, but not in a large enough quantity to help fight diseases.
“The brain and the body are deficient in the machinery to make DHA; it has to come through our diet,” said co-senior author Fernando Gomez-Pinilla.
DHA strengthens synapses in the brain and 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, said Gomez-Pinilla, who also is a member of UCLA’s Brain Injury Research Center.
The research is published online in journal EBioMedicine.