A team of neurologists from University of California Los Angeles suggests in a new study that a diet high in processed fructose may play a role in one’s ability to heal after a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

“Americans consume most of their fructose from processed foods sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup,” says Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, PhD, a professor of neurosurgery and integrative biology and physiology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, in a media release from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences.

“We found that processed fructose inflicts surprisingly harmful effects on the brain’s ability to repair itself after a head trauma,” Gomez-Padilla adds.

In the study, published recently in the Journal of Cerebral blood Flow and Metabolism, Gomez-Padilla and the rest of the research team fed laboratory rats standard rat chow and then trained them to escape a maze for 5 days.

The rats were then randomly assigned to either one of two groups, which for 6 weeks was fed either plain or fructose-infused water. The fructose was crystallized from corn in a dose simulating a human diet high in foods and drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, the release explains.

A week later, the rats were anesthetized and underwent a brief pulse of fluid to the head to reproduce aspects of human TBI. After an additional 6 weeks, the researchers retested all the rats’ ability to recall the route and escape the maze.

The scientists discovered that the animals on the fructose diet took 30% longer to find the exit compared to those who drank plain water.

The UCLA team also found that fructose altered a wealth of biological processes in the animals’ brains after trauma. The sweetener interfered with the ability of neurons to communicate with one another, rewire connections after injury, record memories, and produce enough energy to fuel basic functions, the release continues.

“Our findings suggest that fructose disrupts plasticity—the creation of fresh pathways between brain cells that occurs when we learn or experience something new,” Gomez-Pinilla notes in the release.

“That’s a huge obstacle for anyone to overcome—but especially for a TBI patient, who is often struggling to relearn daily routines and how to care for himself or herself,” adds Gomez-Pinilla, also a member of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center.

Gomez-Pinilla stresses in the release that the study’s take-home message can be boiled down to the following: Reduce fructose in your diet if you want to protect your brain.

[Source(s): University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences, Science Daily]