MAR 02, 2017 7:00 AM PST

New Research Shows Fructose Can Be Made in the Brain

It’s well known that too much sugar is bad for you. There are complications from a high sugar diet that include diabetes, obesity and cardiac issues. When food is ingested, the body converts what it needs for energy into a simple sugar, glucose. Glucose is needed in the cells to make muscles work efficiently and it’s needed in the brain for cognition and synapses. The problem begins when there is too much glucose to be absorbed into the cells. When that happens, and the cells of the body are at capacity, any excess glucose spills over into the bloodstream. High levels of circulating glucose will eventually cause a person to develop diabetes, gain weight and have other symptoms, so it’s best to maintain a healthy diet.
There are other sugars produced in the body however and they don’t all act equally. Recent research at Yale University has shown that the human brain actually produces its own sugar, but not glucose. The team at Yale has published a study that shows, via specific MRI scans, that the brain produces fructose when blood glucose levels increase. Fructose is a sugar that occurs naturally in some foods and is added to others in the form of high fructose corn syrup. The results from the Yale study are the first to show that it is produced in the brain.
 
So how does it work? When glucose levels become elevated in the body, in addition to causing high blood sugar and other complications, some of the glucose is converted into fructose, using a process known as the “polyol pathway.” This pathway is a chemical reaction that is often seen in diabetics when their blood sugar levels fluctuate or are not well controlled. The team at Yale reported that their research shows the polyol pathway is at work in the brain and it results in fructose being produced there. Unlike glucose levels in the blood, levels of fructose are usually low, even when glucose is high. Fructose is metabolized almost entirely by the liver so the levels found in the brain are not likely to be the result of fructose in the bloodstream making its way to the brain.
 
The study involved 8 volunteers, all of whom were healthy, with no cardiovascular problems, diabetes or obesity. After an intravenous infusion of glucose, they underwent a very specific MRI brain scan known as Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, or MRS. It differs from a traditional MRI because it’s able to provide researchers with biochemical information about the tissues in the brain, rather than just structural information. In the Yale study, 20 minutes after being given glucose via the IV, the MRS scans showed marked increases in fructose levels in the brain, levels that could not have been elevated as a result of fructose circulating in the bloodstream. The fructose was coming from inside the brain.
 
In a press release about the study, first author Dr. Janice Hwang, assistant professor of medicine at the university said, “In this study, we show for the first time that fructose can be produced in the human brain. By showing that fructose in the brain is not simply due to dietary consumption of fructose, we’ve shown fructose can be generated from any sugar you eat. It adds another dimension into understanding fructose’s effects on the brain.” Take a look at the video below to learn more about the study.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
OCT 30, 2021
Health & Medicine
Human Brains React Fastest to the Smell of Danger
OCT 30, 2021
Human Brains React Fastest to the Smell of Danger
The ability to detect odors is important to most organisms' survival; they have to be able to find food or mates, fo ...
NOV 17, 2021
Neuroscience
Drinking Tea and Coffee Linked to Reduced Dementia and Stroke Risk
NOV 17, 2021
Drinking Tea and Coffee Linked to Reduced Dementia and Stroke Risk
Drinking 4-6 cups of coffee or tea is linked to a lower risk of stroke and dementia. The corresponding study was publish ...
NOV 17, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Native American Plant Extract Treats Pain and Diarrhea
NOV 17, 2021
Native American Plant Extract Treats Pain and Diarrhea
Plants with a long history of use as topical analgesics by Native Americans may also be helpful against diarrhea. The co ...
NOV 17, 2021
Neuroscience
Black Friday: A Shopper's Heaven or Hell?
NOV 17, 2021
Black Friday: A Shopper's Heaven or Hell?
Shoppers either love or hate events like Black Friday, and psychologists explain why
NOV 20, 2021
Neuroscience
Fear balance - the brain and body communicate to maintain fear within an adaptive range
NOV 20, 2021
Fear balance - the brain and body communicate to maintain fear within an adaptive range
We have all experienced the emotion of fear. Although what one individual might fear (e.g. rollercoasters or snakes), mi ...
NOV 28, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Climate Migrants and Social Justice
NOV 28, 2021
Climate Migrants and Social Justice
Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. The pressure is most on developed countries to do something about ...
Loading Comments...