DHA for Damage Control

dhaAdd one more crucial health benefit of omega-3 fatty acids to the growing list: minimizing the harmful effects that fructose has on the brain.

I’ve long discussed minimizing fructose intake, particularly after workouts, and especially for those trying to maximize fat loss. Why? Because while fructose is a sugar, its structure is one that can’t be used by the body; the liver must first convert fructose into a usable sugar form. So fructose offers little in the way of post-workout glycogen recovery. Plus, it’s quite easy for the liver to turn fructose into fat instead of sugar. The fructose that does make it into the cells of the body (such as muscle cells and nerve cells) essentially “gunks” things up and interferes with the cells’ normal functions.

In my opinion, fructose is the trans fats of the carbohydrate family. That’s right: Fructose, be it from processed high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in soda or naturally occurring fructose in fruit, is harmful to the body. And now new research shows that fructose negatively alters genes in the brain that can lead to numerous diseases and disorders. Previous research has shown that fructose destroys communication between nerve cells and increases the level of toxic molecules in the brain. And a long-term high-fructose diet has been shown to diminish the brain’s ability to learn and remember information.

Mind-Blowing Study

In a recent study to test the effects of fructose on the body, UCLA researchers trained rats to complete a maze. The rats were then divided into three separate groups. For six weeks, one group drank plain water with their food; a second group drank water with fructose – an amount equivalent to a human drinking a liter of soda a day. A third group drank water that contained the same amount of fructose as the second group, but their diet was rich in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

After six weeks, the researchers had the rats run the maze again. It took the rats consuming fructose in their water twice as long to complete the maze as it took the rats drinking plain water. This suggests that the fructose impaired the rats’ memory. The rats drinking fructose water plus a DHA-rich diet had times similar to the plain water group. This suggests that the DHA prevented the impairment in memory that the fructose caused.

The rats consuming the fructose water also had higher blood levels of glucose, triglycerides and insulin compared to the rats drinking plain water. Yet the the rats getting DHA in their diets did NOT experience these negative changes despite consuming the same amount of fructose. This suggests that DHA helped prevent the negative changes in metabolism that fructose instigated, which could lead to the development of diseases like obesity and diabetes.

The researchers also examined gene activity in the rats’ brains. They discovered that the fructose negatively impacted over 900 genes, the majority of which are comparable to genes in humans and are among those that regulate metabolism, cell communication and inflammation. Alterations to those genes could lead to serious health issues like depression, Parkinson’s disease, bipolar disorder and other brain diseases. However, the rats consuming the DHA-rich diet had none of these negative gene alterations.

Evidence suggests that fructose negatively alters genes by altering the nucleotide cytosine. This basically turns genes “on” or “off.” DHA is well-known to also directly influence genes, but in a positive manner. It appears that DHA prevents the negative changes that fructose makes to those genes.

Jim’s Take-Home Points:

Does this mean that you should never eat fructose, even if from fruit? No! I’m not saying to cut out all your fructose. But you definitely want to limit it. Use dextrose/glucose versus table sugar (which is 50 percent fructose) when you can. Post JYM Fast Carbs is pure dextrose with zero fructose. This ensures that you get the proper carb source for maximizing post-workout recovery without getting any potential damage from fructose.

Also, be sure to avoid high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as much as possible. HFCS increases the amount of fructose in the sweetener in an effort to make it taste sweeter – and the last thing you want is more fructose. Plus, there’s much debate over the safety of the chemical procedures used to make HFCS. One issue appears to be leakage of mercury into the final HFCS product. In fact, one study reported that over 50 percent of the products containing HFCS tested for mercury were contaminated with the metal.

Fruit is another issue. Yes, the carbohydrate is 50 percent fructose, but due to the fiber and the micronutrients most fruit offers, the benefits outweigh the risks. Just don’t go overboard on fruit. Limit fruit intake to about 3-4 servings per day.

Finally, be sure to get ample omega-3 fats in your diet, particularly DHA, to offset any negative changes from fructose in your diet. The best way to ensure you’re getting adequate DHA is to use Omega JYM fish oil; it’s the only fish oil supplement on the market that provides 1,500 mg of DHA – the amount needed to see the expected changes from omega-3 fats. Anything less will NOT provide a true benefit.

Omega JYM is also the only fish oil product that also supplies 300 mg of DPA (docosapentaenoic acid). This somewhat newly discovered omega-3 appears to be very critical to the benefits that the omega-3 fats provide. Taking a fish oil that doesn’t provide DPA in addition to ample amounts of DHA and EPA won’t provide much benefit.