Baked beans, soft drinks and tomato ketchup can all contain high fructose corn syrup
The concept of eating for a healthier brain has been around for a while, with foods such as blueberries, avocados and whole grains helping to optimise brain function. But what about foods that might make you stupid? According to research from UCLA, US, sugar, in the form of fructose, does exactly that.
High-fructose corn syrup is a sweet, cheaper alternative to sugar that can be used in anything from soft drinks to tomato ketchup and baked beans. The researchers, wanting to assess its effects, had rats perform a task – finding their way through a maze – at the start of the trial and then at the end too. In the meantime, the rats were put on various diets. One group of rats were put on a diet with high fructose corn syrup included in their drinking water; another group was also given the sweetened liquid but had added omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil added to their diet; and a third group was the control. The results were clear: the group of rats who had been given omega-3 navigated the maze much faster than the rats who didn’t get any omega-3 but had the sweetened water. Furthermore, the rats who didn’t have the omega-3 showed a decline in synaptic activity and also signs of resistance to insulin, which is a precursor for diabetes.
“There's a growing amount of evidence to support the harmful effects of too much high fructose corn syrup in our diets,” says registered nutritionist Dr Carina Norris, author of The Food Manual (Haynes). “So try to avoid foods with this added sugar where possible, and if you must indulge your sweet tooth, at least make sure you get a good intake of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish like as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna, and flaxseeds and their oil. This could help prevent more extensive damage. Furthermore, it’s important to note that fructose – the sugar in fruit – is not the same as high fructose corn syrup.”