I have an insatiable sweet tooth. Despite knowing all of the harmful effects sugar can have on the body, I can’t break my love of all things in the cookie, cake, and candy category. It makes sense because sugar is really frickin’ addictive. But a new study out of UCLA reports that omega-3 fatty acids may be the ticket to combatting the negative properties of sweet stuff.
Hundreds of changed genes found in the brain that have been damaged by sugar intake can result in health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s. But scientists have uncovered an interesting find: Diets rich in DHA (the omega-3s found in foods like salmon, chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseeds) can help reverse the bad behavior of sugar.
"DHA changes not just one or two genes; it seems to push the entire gene pattern back to normal, which is remarkable," says Xia Yang, a senior author of the study and a UCLA assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology, in a report about the findings.
To come to this conclusion the scientists trained a group of rats to escape a maze, then divided them into three groups. One group was provided water with enough fructose to represent a person who drinks a liter of soda daily, another was given plain water, and the third gulped down the sugary water but was also provided a DHA-rich diet. The rats in the groups that drank fructose water and ate a DHA-heavy diet ran the maze as fast as those who drank just plain water. The group that was only provided the fructose water had trouble with their memory of the maze and had higher insulin levels and blood glucose.
Pretty fascinating stuff. No specific word on exactly how much DHA-rich food one would have to eat to counteract sugar intake or whether a DHA supplement would suffice but definitely something to consider the next time your sweet tooth rears its ugly head.