Digestive Care Expert Brenda Watson

Omega-3 DHA Counteracts the Harmful Effects of Sugar


It is no secret that sugar is unhealthy. From high blood sugar to diabetes and heart disease, a diet high in sugar has far-reaching effects. But did you know that sugar is also bad for your brain? A recent study published in the Journal of Physiology found an interesting connection between a diet low in omega-3s and high in the sugar fructose, and poor memory and brain function. The researchers stated, “Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage.”

In the animal study, one group was fed a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids, and another group was fed a diet high in omega-3s from flaxseed and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The omega-3 deficient animals were found to have poor memory function when compared to those fed a diet rich in omega-3s. The negative effects of a low omega-3 diet were exasperated when high amounts of fructose were added to the diet. In the group receiving sufficient omega-3s, however, a high fructose diet did not have the same negative effects on memory and neuron function, suggesting that omega-3s have a protective effect against the brain dysfunction caused by a high fructose diet.

It is well known that a high sugar diet increases blood sugar and insulin resistance in the bloodstream. This is the hallmark of the metabolic syndrome, an increasingly common condition that precedes type 2 diabetes. This study suggests that not only can a high sugar diet have effects in the bloodstream, but that it can also have similar effects in the brain. The study found disrupted insulin receptor signaling in the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory function. Insulin and fructose are both known to cross the blood–brain barrier, where they can interrupt neuron function.

The findings of this study are not surprising. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is also known as type 3 diabetes. The fact is, the amount of sugar—and even carbohydrates, for that matter—in the Standard American Diet (SAD) is alarmingly high. I am about to debut a one-time airing of my new PBS show next week on this very topic. The show, called The Heart of Perfect Health, is a preview that airs in the greater Baltimore area and that will air nationwide in November. Look for an announcement later this week!


Written by Brenda Watson

Brenda Watson is among the foremost authorities in America today on natural digestive care, herbal cleansing and nutrition. A dynamic health advocate, best-selling author and celebrated PBS-TV health educator, Brenda overcame her own battle with chronic illness and has since helped millions of people improve their well-being through optimal digestion and nutrition. She continues to share her knowledge with the world through her books, online media, and radio and television appearances.Sign up today in the right sidebar to receive Brenda’s Healthy Living eNewsletter full of do-it-yourself tips, recipes, and exclusive offers!

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  • Sterling

    Dr. Watson,

    I saw the portion about Omega-3 fatty acids the other night on “The Heart of Perfect Health” on MPT. Afterwards, I went looking for 1000 mg Omega-3 supplements that contained a high percentage of Omega-3 fatty acids (instead of 600 mg of Omega-3 and 400 of something else); however, I did not have much luck. Can you recommend a brand that meets that standard and the other three you discussed on the show (enteric; containing Vitamin D; and independently verified)?

  • Charles

    I’m shocked at the lack of response to this extremely pertinent question. I found Nutrigold Triple Strength Omega-3 Gold meets all the criteria except the enteric coating and vitamin D. It doesn’t noticeably have the fishy aftertaste, contains 1060 mg of Omega-3 fats, is PCB & mercury free and IFOS 5 star certified. I get as much natural vitamin D as possible from sunlight & UVB lamps so I think I’m fine until I stumble across something better.

  • Coleen Gregory

    okay, what kind of omega 3 fish oil do you recommend that meets all the standards? including eteric coating, ifos for purity, vitamin d and is in a 1000 milligram capsule?

  • H M

    Can you recommend a brand that meets that standard and the other three you discussed on the show (enteric; containing Vitamin D; and independently verified)?

  • Kathleen Fagan

    I too am trying to find the Omega 3 that was recommended but I cannot find them Where can I get them.

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