According to the Department of Agriculture, Americans consumed about 27 pounds of fructose per capita in 2014. Most of this fructose comes in the form of high fructose corn syrup added to processed foods. New research suggests this massive fructose infusion could be altering our DNA to increase our risk of developing the most common chronic diseases afflicting mankind, including diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, there’s also good news from this research, conducted by scientists at UCLA, who claim their study is the first to investigate how fructose affects genes that control metabolism and brain function. It appears that the omega 3 fatty acid known as DHA could help reverse the genetic damage wrought by heavy doses of fructose.
Fructose vs DHA
The researchers trained rats to navigate a maze, then separated them into three groups: one group drank water spiked with the fructose equivalent of a human drinking a liter of soda per day. Another was given the fructose cocktail to wash down a DHA-rich diet. The third group drank plain water and received no DHA.
After six weeks, the rats returned to the maze. The rats drinking plain water navigated the maze in half the time required for the rats on fructose. The rats on fructose and DHA navigated the maze as fast as the rats drinking plain water. The results suggested that DHA offset the detrimental effects of fructose in some way.
Western diet and disease
After sequencing more than 20,000 genes in the rat brains, hundreds of genes comparable to genes in humans, were identified that interact to regulate metabolism, cell communication and inflammation. According to the researchers, alterations to those genes are associated with Parkinson’s disease, depression, bipolar disorder, and other brain diseases.
The research sheds new light about how the Western diet has a tendency to increase the risk of chronic disease. It also suggests that avoiding high fructose corn syrup and finding ways to increase DHA intake is wise for people interested in protecting their bodies and minds.
Start by phasing out the sodas that seemed to impair the rats in the UCLA study. Minimizing your fast food intake will keep a great deal of fructose out of your system. Developing a habit of reading food labels will also show you how pervasive fructose is in the American food supply. This insight could motivate you to minimize your intake of prepared and processed foods—just about anything that comes boxed, canned or shrink-wrapped.
Boosting omega 3
Staying away from prepared and processed foods will make it necessary to buy fresh foods and learn how to cook them. Cooking with fresh ingredients is a great opportunity to increase your intake of DHA. DHA is shorthand for docosahexaenoic acid, a form of an omega 3 fatty acid. Research has shown that getting your omega 3s from foods is the best way to reap their health benefits. The body can’t absorb them very well in the form of supplements.
The most basic omega 3 is called alpha linolenic acid, or ALA. Most common vegetables, fruits, grains and meats contain ALA. Most people can eat foods with ALA and rely on their bodies to transform it into DHA and another essential omega 3 called eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA. To focus specifically on DHA food sources, develop a taste for fish, fish oils, eggs and dairy products.
World’s Healthiest Foods
DHA-EPA Omega 3 Institute