You’ve probably heard about how processed fructose—and especially high-fructose corn syrup—is bad for us, contributing to everything from cancer to diabetes, obesity and fatty liver disease. Now pile on a new study that shows how harmful the sweetener can be to our brains, especially if you are trying to recover from a traumatic brain injury.

The UCLA neuroscientists published their research results in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism. The study shows “processed fructose inflicts surprisingly harmful effects on the brain’s ability to repair itself after a head trauma,” according to Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery and integrative biology and physiology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. “Our findings suggest that fructose disrupts plasticity—the creation of fresh pathways between cells that occurs when we learn or experience something new,” he says.


Fructose is honey, cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, which is not just in Halloween candy but also in soft drinks, condiments, applesauce and, wait for it, baby food. Fructose is found naturally in fruit too, but the natural stuff contains antioxidants, fiber and other nutrients that prevent the same damage.

Want more info on fructose? Check out these other LivingHealthy stories:

The Sugar Hangover

Does High Fructose Corn Syrup Make People Hungrier?

Are You Making This Healthy Sugar Mistake?

The Not-So-Sweet Truth About Agave



University of California, Los Angeles: High-fructose diet hampers recovery from traumatic brain injury