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Published on: May 29, 2012
by Michael Fuhrman D.C. for Designs for Health:
Like most folks, I like the occasional sweet indulgence, be it a slice of cheesecake, scoop of Ben and Jerry’s (“Everything but the Kitchen Sink”, please!) or a “Death by Chocolate” type of dessert. The problem occurs when that occasional treat becomes a daily habit. Compound the daily habit with a steady consumption of fructose loaded juices or soft drinks and suddenly we are now looking at a situation that has now become a significant health issue. If we look around as we shop at the local grocery store, this situation may be becoming the rule and not the exception.
While we recognize the outward signs of this type of chronic indulgence; pendulous bellies, double chins and labored breathing, it’s the inward signals that may go unnoticed and may ultimately be the iceberg lying below the surface. Over consumption of fructose is now a primary culprit in the development of obesity, diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome. While I have discussed fructose in past blogs it may behoove us to revisit this subject in the context of brain function and cognition.
To illustrate, a study revealed that laboratory animals fed high amounts of fructose experienced impaired spatial memory. The study therefore demonstrates that a high fructose diet harms the brain as well as the body.
Fructose, unlike glucose for instance, is processed almost solely by the liver, and produces an excessive amount of triglycerides which eventually finds its way into the bloodstream. Triglycerides can interfere with insulin signaling in the brain, which plays a major role in brain cell survival and plasticity. Plasticity being the brains ability to change based on new experiences.
In order to study the effects of Metabolic Syndrome, laboratory animals are fed fructose, subsequently inducing the condition. By also depriving the animals of omega-3 fatty acid consumption, this further exacerbates indices of cognition and memory and also impacts markers of oxidative stress and damage in these same animals. The evidence of the severity of Metabolic Syndrome’s impact on brain function is such that one scientific reviewer has suggested that the term “metabolic-cognitive syndrome” be used for this particular subset of patient.
As diabetes may have its pathogenic effects on cognitive conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, through oxidative damage and injury on the mitochondria,mitochondrial regeneration can take place with supplementation of the vitamin-like compound Pyrroloquinoline quinine or PQQ.
Related benefits of a Mediterranean Diet
Also, simple dietary modifications may be able to circumvent this cognitive and possibly brain damaging cascade. Those individuals who consume a Mediterranean type Diet were significantly less likely to experience brain infarcts than those consuming a typical American diet. This diet has been associated with a decrease in Alzheimer’s risk as well.
Finally, increased red blood cell levels of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are associated with reduced risks of cognitive disorders as well. Not coincidentally, the Mediterranean diet contains generous amounts of omega-3 rich fish oils as well.
Attempting to eat a diet in this day and age that enables us to sustain health and minimize disease, unfortunately requires effort, diligence and educational awareness. Our food is filled with ingredients that have been repeatedly shown to undermine optimal health, many times unbeknownst to the consumer. Keeping it simple by eating whole foods and minimizing packaged foods and habitual indulgences could go a long way in staving off degenerative conditions that are experienced by a large segment of the population.
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