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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Is Soda Making Us Dumb?

A new study suggests high-fructose corn syrup is bad for brains as well as the rest of our bodies.

soda bottles

Photo: JonathanCohen (Flickr)

Still not interested in giving up your twice-daily soda habit? No worries. The research also found that omega-3 fatty acids serve to counteract the effects of HFCS.

Fructose, Fructose Everywhere

In spite of high-fructose corn syrup’s (HFCS) well-established links to health problems like obesity and diabetes, the average American consumes some 40 dry pounds of the artificial sweetener each year.

That’s largely because the stuff shows up in everything: in sodas, candy bars, Pop-Tarts and even some lunchmeats. HFCS’s ubiquity owes to federal farm subsidies, which make it a much cheaper ingredient than cane sugar for domestic food manufacturers concerned with whittling down the cost of production.

Bad For Body And Mind

But if the risks of fatty liver and cardiovascular distress aren’t enough to motivate you to seek out healthier alternatives, maybe the specter of neurological damage will be.

According to new research conducted on rats at UCLA and published in The Journal of Physiology, a consistent barrage of fructose can have deleterious effects on a range of cognitive faculties, including memory and learning.

In other words, too much processed sugars might very well make your wit a little bit dim.


To avoid HFCS’s dulling effects, Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, one of the study’s authors, recommends fresh fruit over Kool-Aid and mass-produced desserts.

His research has also found that omega-3 fatty acids serve to counteract HFCS, so you might want to up your flaxseed intake, too.

Read More:

  • ‘Metabolic syndrome’ in the brain: deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signaling and cognition (Journal of Physiology)
  • Sugar makes you stupid: Study shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory (
  • The decline and fall of high-fructose corn syrup (Slate)
Ben Alford

Ben Alford works in Indiana Public Media's online dimension and holds an M.A. from Indiana University Bloomington's History and Philosophy of Science department. When not vegetating in front of a computer screen or geeking out over a good book, he can found outside exploring.

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