New research findings presented at Neuroscience 2014 suggest that consuming a diet rich in fructose throughout adolescence can worsen depression and anxiety like behavior, impacting on how the brain responds to stress.
“Our results offer new insights into the ways in which diet can alter brain health and may lead to important implications for adolescent nutrition and development,” said lead author Constance Harrell of Emory University in Atlanta.
Fructose is a sugar found naturally in fruits and vegetables and is added to many processed foods and beverages as an added sugar. It can promote negative cardiovascular effects and stimulates neural pathways that affect how the brain responds to stress, which can have important behavioral effects, including the worsening of symptoms related to depression and anxiety. Concern has been raised in adolescents during teen years, a critical time for the development of the brain’s stress response.
To investigate the long term impact of fructose consumption the scientists fed adolescent and rat models a standard or a high fructose diet. After 10 weeks, the adolescent but not adult rats on the high-fructose diet had a different stress hormone response to an acute stressor, consistent with their depressed-like behavior. The researchers determined that a genetic pathway in the brain that plays a key role in regulating the way the brain responds to stress was also altered.