Are you one for a good can of fizzy cola? The problem of an over-active sweet tooth may extend beyond metabolic disorders, a new study has found. As reported this week, scientists at UCLA found that fructose may be responsible for modulation of genes in our brains. When they fed mice fructose supplemented water (mice don’t like cola!), they took longer to navigate Barnes Maze. In RNA heat maps, this impairment in memory and spatial learning was explained by differential expression of genes such as the extracellular matrix genes Bgn and Fmod. Likewise, epigenetic regulators were also deregulated, consistent with changes in methylation and gene silencing!
It’s no news that sugars can modulate biological molecules; in diabetes, high glucose is associated with protein glycation of proteins and accumulation and inflammation leading to complications like cardiovascular disease. Additionally, advanced glycation end products (AGE) formed when peanuts are roasted are associated with the modern day allergy epidemic. These new findings are amongst the first to implicate the sweet stuff in DNA modification and in cognitive function.
A fishy solution to a sticky situation
Is it the end of the road for fructose lovers? The study also showed that DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid found in fish oils could reverse the genomic and memory alterations. So long as we wash our cola down with a fillet of fish we should be OK right? However, Yang suggests caution as the extent of reversal is yet to be explored. A more likely implication is the development of drugs targeting molecules like Bng that appear to be central to memory.