With several countries in a conscious movement to combat diabetes and other lifestyle diseases enforcing new rules to control the amount of sugar in food, we now know the culprit is over. And along with it, it has brought into the spotlight various food products that we had previously devoured whole-heartedly without knowing the harmful effects on our health. One could argue that sugar has incredible properties. It’s amazing how a freshly baked donut can lift your spirits or a bite of a rasgulla can dispel the blues. But even if you convince yourself that these are occasional indulgences, then what about that heavy drop of ketchup with those samosas or pakoras? The packaged fruit juice for a light refreshment? The biscuits for your evening tea? Or a scoop of ice cream to survive the summer heat? Look carefully, they are nothing but sugar. And that’s all we eat. And too much of anything is never good for you. Naturally occurring sugars in foods are still fine for your diet, but the added sugars (or free sugars) are what we need to avoid, like sucrose, fructose, etc. Only according to the WHO 5% of our daily caloric intake should consist of added sugars which is about 5-7 teaspoons.
A recent study by the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) found that fructose, a common sugar found in the Western diet, can damage hundreds of brain genes in ways that can lead to a range of diseases – from diabetes to Cardiovascular diseases and from Alzheimer’s to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. So how can you reduce? First, keep track of your daily sugar intake and read the food labels to understand what they contain. Be aware of what you are eating. Yes, sugar gives so much of a need for a happy boost to make you feel good, but too much of it can cause serious health discomfort. So start checking. There’s some good news, too: UCLA researchers also found that an omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) appears to reverse the harmful changes caused by fructose. “DHA doesn’t just change a gene or two; it seems the entire gene pattern is normalized again, which is remarkable,” said Xia Yang, assistant professor at UCLA. “DHA improves learning and memory. It’s abundant in wild salmon (but not in farmed salmon) and to a lesser extent in other fish and fish oils, as well as walnuts, flaxseed, and fruits and vegetables, ”said UCLA co-senior author Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, and the research was online in published in the journal EBioMedicine.
To test the effects of fructose and DHA, the researchers trained rats to escape a maze and then randomly divided the animals into three groups. Over the next six weeks, a group of rats drank water with an amount of fructose roughly equivalent to a person drinking a liter of soda a day. The second group received fructose water and a diet high in DHA. The third received water with no fructose and no DHA. After the six weeks, the rats were brought through the maze again. The fructose-only animals navigated the maze about half as fast as the water-only rats – indicating that the fructose diet had impaired their memory. However, the rats given fructose and DHA showed very similar results to those who drank only water – strongly suggesting that the DHA eliminated the deleterious effects of fructose. Other tests on the rats found greater differences: the rats fed a high fructose diet had much higher levels of blood sugar, triglycerides and insulin than the other two groups. These 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 caused by 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. Conditions that changes in these genes can cause include Parkinson’s disease, depression, bipolar disorder, and other brain diseases, Yang said. Perhaps it would be wise to start adding omega-3 foods to your normal diet. It is time for a change.

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