Though you might feel a strong inkling toward loading up on sugary snacks during final exams or those last few hours of work, that might be a bad idea. Binging on sugar for as little as six weeks can actually make you dumber.
Researchers at UCLA have found that a diet high in sugar can disrupt the memory and learning functions of the brain, while omega-3 fatty acids can actually counteract said disruption.
High-fructose corn syrup, in particular, creates problems. The liquid is six times sweeter than cane sugar and, as you've probably heard, commonly added to soft drinks and processed foods. The average American actually consumes more than 40 pounds of this stuff every year.
"We're not talking about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants," explained Gomez-Pinilla, who is also a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center. "We're concerned about high-fructose corn syrup that is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative."
The researchers set a number of rats up on a sugar-high diet, and set aside another bunch on a sugar free diet. After six weeks, they asked said rats to do a little maze. They had done it well six weeks prior, but the sugar-fed rats had trouble after that time period.
"The second group of rats navigated the maze much faster than the rats that did not receive omega-3 fatty acids," Gomez-Pinilla said. "The DHA-deprived animals were slower, and their brains showed a decline in synaptic activity. Their brain cells had trouble signaling each other, disrupting the rats' ability to think clearly and recall the route they'd learned six weeks earlier."
A closer look found that insulin had lost some of its power to influence the brain, which in turn disrupted the memory and learning functions of the brain.
Long story short, might not hurt to skip that Snickers.