Science Catch-up. High-Fructose Diet Harms 940 Brain Genes

by The Health Sciences Academy — Get free science updates here.

Snapshot of how fructose and DHA either switch on or off entire gene networks in the brain

Welcome to our Thursday’s Science Catch-up: curated links by The Health Sciences Academy. Get our email updates every other Thursday here (it’s free).

Let’s catch you up with studies and news that recently made the headlines!

Click on your favourite topics to read our summary:

1. High-fructose diet harms 940 brain genes

2. What foods help fight the risk of chronic inflammation?

3. When hungry, bad decisions are made!

4. Am I drinking enough? Yes, no, and maybe

5. First happiness genes have been found

High-fructose diet harms 940 brain genes

Study link

High-fructose diets (think added sugars in processed foods and drinks) modify 940 genes in the brain. And not in a good way!

In this remarkable nutrigenomic study, scientists discovered how high-fructose consumption alters:

  • 734 unique hypothalamic genes and
  • 206 hippocampal genes.

These genes aren’t just “any” genes. They are actually fundamental to survival. They control metabolism, cell communication, inflammation, and brain function.

To give you an idea, certain alterations to those genes can lead to leptin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Snapshot of how fructose either switches “on” or “off” entire gene networks in the brain. Gomez-Pinilla et al., 2016.

We also know from previous research that high-fructose diets from processed foods and drinks:

  • damage the communication between brain cells,
  • increase toxic molecules in the brain, and
  • in the long term, diminish the brain’s ability to learn and remember information.

The official advice is to limit all “added sugars” (fructose included) to less than 25 grams a day. So check those labels!

What about fruit? I get this asked a lot.

Whole fruits don’t count as “added sugars”. But fruit juices do (even that freshly-squeezed orange juice).

Unlike fruit juices, the fibre in whole fruits largely slows your body’s absorption of fructose.

One more thing!

The same scientists revealed some good news too. An Omega 3 fat called DHA seems to reverse the harmful changes produced by high-fructose intakes.

DHA is found in oily fish, milk fat (e.g. butter or lard), and egg yolks. Your body can also make a little bit of DHA by converting the vegetable form of Omega 3 (ALA) found in flaxseeds and chia seeds.

What foods help fight the risk of chronic inflammation?

Study link

This new study by UK researchers identified a list of foods that can help prevent chronic inflammation.

Inflammation is a vital process in your body, essential to DNA repair or muscle growth, for example. However, when it goes wrong or goes on too long, it can trigger negative health outcomes.

Uncontrolled inflammation underpins many major diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, to name a few.

The results of this study suggest that certain polyphenols derived from onions, turmeric, red grapes, green tea, and açai berries may help reduce the release of pro-inflammatory mediators in the body, helping lower the risk of chronic inflammation.

The polyphenols specifically studied were isorhamnetin, resveratrol, curcumin, and vanillic acid.

When hungry, bad decisions are made!

Study link

Should you stop making important decisions when you feel hungry?

Well, it appears that a hormone released during hunger may affect decision making.

The specific hormone studied here was ghrelin, which is released in your body before meals to increase appetite.

This study reports that this specific hunger hormone (ghrelin) has a negative effect on both the ability to make decisions and control impulsive behaviour.


Am I drinking enough? Yes, no, and maybe

Study link

This systematic review discusses the adequacy of fluid intake in detail.

The researchers developed a simple tool that may help healthy, active individuals answer the question, “Am I hydrating enough?”

Have a look at this handy decision diagram to find out:

  • W means weight loss, usually from water loss, which is more evident when you weigh yourself before and after vigorous exercise.
  • U means dark-coloured urine, which is an indicator of dehydration.
  • T means thirst, which is a conscious desire for water.

W (weight loss), U (urine colour), and T (thirst) can be used as markers of inadequate fluid intake. Cheuvront and Kenefick, 2016.

First happiness genes have been found

News link

More on genetics. For the first time in history, scientists have located our happiness genes!

They specifically mapped 3 genes that could explain the differences in how we experience happiness.

These were the findings of an international genome-wide association study involving over 298,000 participants.

But this is just the beginning. It’s suspected that there are a lot more genes connected to our happiness (or lack of!).

Here’s a fun fact for you. If someone is feeling down, share this with them!

50% of how happy you feel can be explained by genetics. 10% is circumstantial. But 40% is in your control. Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, and Schkade, 2005.

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What has inspired you this week? What are your thoughts on some of these topics? Leave a comment and let us know!

Alex Ruani, Doctoral Researcher, leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where her team of accomplished scientists and PhDs are training a new breed of over 100,000 highly-specialised nutrition professionals who are leveraging the latest personalisation strategies to help their clients. She is a Harvard-trained scientist and UCL Doctoral Researcher who is fanatical about equipping health professionals with the latest science-based tools so they can succeed in their practices – from identifying the unique nutrient needs to building highly personalised nutrition programs. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition biochemistry, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free email updates.

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