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ADHD, bipolar and aggressive behavior can be driven by high fructose intake

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New peer-review paper looks at evolution and current Western diet to help explain manic behavior.

New research suggests that conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder and even aggressive behavior may be associated with sugar intake and that it may have an evolutionary basis.

The research today from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and published in Evolution and human behavior, presents a hypothesis that supports a role for fructose, a constituent of sugar and corn syrup with high fructose and uric acid acid (a fructose metabolite), which increases the risk of these behavioral disorders.

“We present evidence that fructose by lowering energy in cells triggers a feed-fast response similar to what happens in hunger,”

; said lead author Richard Johnson, MD, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine at CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

Johnson outlines research showing that a feed response stimulates risk-taking, impulsivity, news-seeking, rapid decision-making, and aggression to help secure food as a survival response. Overactivation of this process from excess sugar intake can cause impulsive behaviors that can range from ADHD to bipolar disorder or even aggression.

“While the fructose pathway was intended to help survive, fructose intake has increased in the air over the last century and may be in overdrive due to the large amounts of sugar in the current Western diet,” Johnson adds.

The paper looks at how excessive intake of fructose present in refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup may have a contributing role in the pathogenesis of behavioral disorders associated with obesity and Western diet.

Johnson notes, “We do not blame aggressive behavior on sugar, but rather note that it may be a contributor.”

Johnson recommends further studies to examine sugar and uric acid, especially with new inhibitors of fructose metabolism on the horizon.

“The identification of fructose as a risk factor does not negate the importance of genetic, familial, physical, emotional and environmental factors that shape mental health,” he adds.

Reference: October 16, 2020, Evolution and human behavior.

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