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

Happiness genes_The Health Sciences Academy_Graphic

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.

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

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!

Happiness genes_The Health Sciences Academy_Graphic

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!

The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right
Alex Ruani leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where she and her team make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for students. She is a Harvard-trained scientific researcher who specialises in cravings and appetite neurobiology, nutrition biochemistry, and nutrigenomics. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition science, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free Science Catch-ups every other Thursday.
Connect with Alex via email.


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22 Comments

  • Catherine

    Reply Reply May 19, 2016

    Hi you said fruit is fine to eat but juices are added sugars. What about a freshly made smoothie? I make 1 every day with fresh fruit and coconut water or almond milk.
    Thanks.

    • Hi Catherine! I’m all in for homemade smoothies, keeping as much of the fibre as possible :-) Commercial smoothies (particularly those marketed to children) may not have “added” sugars, but they do have more natural “free” sugars than usual (from added apple or pineapple juice to enhance sweetness), meaning that they do count towards the recommended intake limit. Have a look here where it reads “Sugar high from smoothies”: https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/science-catch-up/science-catch-up-15/

  • Alessandra Furlan

    Reply Reply May 19, 2016

    I love the topics you have chosen! Really interesting!

  • emma clayton

    Reply Reply May 19, 2016

    I’ve heard that how much water you should drink is dictated by different factors (eg if you’re overweight) and that it’s not the same for everyone. I never really understand why I’m supposed to keep drinking even if I’m not thirsty. Do you have any scientific stuff you can provide links for that will give me clear answers? Thank you.

    • Hi Emma – Yes, I get asked about this a lot, we have an entire module on hydration calculations in the Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutrition course, and also in Detox Specialist. In short, your brain can “override” your feeling of thirst. Meaning that by the time you feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated! If you click on the study link I included and scroll down, you’ll see the full paper :-)

  • Kathy Welter

    Reply Reply May 19, 2016

    awesome a always, this info really helps support healthier choices for everyone.
    I’d be interested in studies on how these sugars affect children with autism.
    Thanks, Kathy in Vancouver

  • Samantha Cheshire

    Reply Reply May 19, 2016

    More interesting topics :) The story on the happiness Gene findings has really got me thinking and pondering the thought that although there is a lot which our cognitive behavior has on the influence of our happiness, there is so much which we have no control over like the genetic makeup which influences the way in which we feel.I fully identify that sometimes people live with much blessedness in their lives and still they can be very depressed with no apparent reason, this is where it makes total sense to me that if our genes are having most of the influence on our happiness then this is why some suffer with such low moods, but great news about the 40% which is choice, there is no doubt that with treatment such as CBT we can learn to be happier, or these or just my thoughts anyway :)

  • Dr sujata

    Reply Reply May 21, 2016

    Very informative and scientific, evidence based studies!
    Really enjoyed reading!… specially happiness related three genes,daily water intake and taking decisions when hungry!

  • Chinmay Munje

    Reply Reply May 24, 2016

    Such a great article! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Philip Watling

    Reply Reply May 29, 2016

    The human body needs six forms of nutrition: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and, of course, water. All of these are vital and have different functions designed to be used on a cave man: vitamins and mineral uise is obvious and as it ever was; proteins to build muscle; fats store energy for the lean times and are used as an energy sauce (and are useful in lining nerve cells and in transporting some nutrients); water is for life! Carbohydrates are a source of energy and were very necessary for cave men whThe human body needs six forms of nutrition: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and, of course, water. All of these are vital and have different functions designed to be used on a cave man: vitamins and mineral use is obvious and as it ever was; proteins to build muscle; fats store energy for the lean times and are used as an energy sauce (and are useful in lining nerve cells and in transporting some nutrients); water is for life! Carbohydrates are a source of energy and were very necessary for cave men who lived off hunting, and eating the few vegetables and starch-rich food that was gathered and eventually grown. Sugars were rare and the brain become hard-wired to seek this food sauce causing ancient man to, for example, steal from bees. A dangerous activity!

    Then came modern man who had discovered cheap sugar cane and now even cheaper High-fructose Corn Syrup, which gets in many processed foods and our cave men brains want this ‘pure’ form a sugar. It craves it. At the same time, we spend our days sitting at computers or on comfy chairs watching TV. We do not hunt food or fight wars against each other. Simply put we take in far more calories than we burn up. The trouble is that sugar is ‘toxic’ and too much leads to untold unpleasantness of which diabetes is possibly the worst. That and obesity, our reliance in sugar is a ticking timebomb…
    i lived of hunting and eating the few vegetables and starch-rich food. Sugars were rare and the brain become hard-wired

  • Helen Duyvestyn

    Reply Reply June 18, 2016

    I love the pie graph on happiness – which I first believe was postulated by Dr Sonja Lyubromirsky. Acknowledging that we have *some* control over our happiness levels can be life saving an a total eye opener for some people. Our behaviours and our life choices can and do make a difference

  • Philip Watling

    Reply Reply June 19, 2016

    More to the point, not having control over one’s happiness can be a very frustrating position to be in!

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