There is both good and bad news coming out of the labs of UCLA this week.
First, the bad news: it turns out that the fructose found in so many American foods can actually alter the genes in your brain. The good news, however, is that these harmful genetic mutations can be reversed by eating delicious wild salmon.
The twofer food news came from a UCLA team that focused on an omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. By controlling DHA levels in rats and putting them in a maze, the researchers found that those who had been given both DHA and fructose performed just as well as the ones who had been given neither.
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Meanwhile, the rats who consumed a quantity of fructose that would amount to roughly one liter of soda per day in humans only got out of the maze half as quickly as the other groups of rats. In other words, while fructose on its own had a measurable impact on cognitive abilities, those harmful properties seem to have been cancelled out by protective fatty acids.
"DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable," Xia Yang, a senior author of the study and a UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology, said in a press release. "And we can see why it has such a powerful effect."
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While the human body creates DHA naturally, it's not enough to protect your brain from the negative effects of high sugar consumption. In order to benefit from these brain-altering properties, humans need to consume it in their diet. While wild (but not farmed) salmon has the highest levels of DHA, it can also be found in other fish, fish oils, walnuts, flaxseed, and fruits and vegetables.
Fructose, on the other hand, is far more readily available to Americans who consume, on average, a whopping 27 pounds of it every year, mostly in the form of syrups, sodas, and dessert foods.
But as long as you're getting enough DHA, this research appears to support one of the rare cases where you can literally have your cake (and salmon) and eat it.