Is Sugar Bad for Your Brain?

An up-close view of several different types of candy
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We all know what sugar does to our waistlines. And our teeth. But what about our brains? Does a diet high in sugary food and drinks take a toll on our memory and smarts as we age?

A growing number of studies have suggested that high sugar consumption seems to affect the brain and its ability to learn and remember information.

A 2016 study lead by Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, director of the Neurotrophic Research Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that a high-sugar diet hampered learning and memory in rats, but that giving them omega-3 fatty acids (typically found in foods like fish and flaxseed) counteracted some of these negative effects.

In the study, the rats were trained to find their way through a maze. They then were given a fructose drink for six weeks. One group was also given omega-3 supplementation in addition to the fructose. After six weeks, the rats were tested on their ability to escape the maze.

Cutting back on sugars and simple carbs may help your brain. Learn more here from Staying Sharp.

The fructose group was markedly slower remembering the route, suggesting the fructose had affected their memory. By comparison, the fructose-with-omega-3 group was twice as fast at escaping the maze.

“What this shows is that it’s important to combine many types of food in our diet. If we have a healthy base diet — especially if we eat a lot of foods with omega-3s, plus other healthy things like vegetables — we have the freedom once in a while to have some sugar,” Gomez-Pinilla said.

Find out more about research on sugar and the brain in Sugar on the Brain.

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