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Hangry October 31 2020 Is sugar messing with our minds?

I’ve found a news story and an abstract for the article “Fructose and uric acid as drivers of a hyperactive foraging response: A clue to behavioral disorders associated with impulsivity or mania?” Richard Johnson et al, in the October 1, 2020 issue of Evolution and Human Behaviour say, “Recent studies show that fructose is a unique nutrient that stimulates an innate survival pathway for many species that involves the foraging for food with storage of the energy as fat. In Western Society the high intake of sugar has placed this survival pathway in overdrive, leading to an increase in obesity and diabetes.

“Here we discuss how excessive fructose intake may lead to a hyperactive foraging response, and how this may contribute to various behavioral disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, manic depression, aggressive behaviors, and other disorders.”

The abstract gives more details: “Several behavioral disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and aggressive behaviors are linked with sugar intake and obesity. The reason(s) for this association has been unclear. Here we present a hypothesis supporting a role for fructose, a component of sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and uric acid (a fructose metabolite), in increasing the risk for these behavioral disorders. Recent studies have shown that the reason fructose intake is strongly associated with development of metabolic syndrome is that fructose intake activates an evolutionary-based survival pathway that stimulates foraging behavior and the storage of energy as fat. While modest intake may aid animals that would like to store fat as a protective response from food shortage or starvation, we propose that high intake of sugar and HFCS causes a hyperactive foraging response that stimulates craving, impulsivity, risk taking and aggression that increases the risk for ADHD, bipolar disease and aggressive behavior. High glycemic carbohydrates and salty foods may also contribute as they can be converted to fructose in the body. Some studies suggest uric acid produced during fructose metabolism may mediate some of these effects. Chronic stimulation of the pathway could lead to desensitization of hedonic responses and induce depression. In conclusion, a hyperactive foraging response driven by high glycemic carbohydrates and sugars may contribute to affective disorders.”

This news story appears in several publications, likely from a press release: “The research, out today from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and published in Evolution and Human Behavior, presents a hypothesis supporting a role for fructose, a component of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and uric acid (a fructose metabolite), in increasing the risk for these behavioral disorders.

“We present evidence that fructose, by lowering energy in cells, triggers a foraging response similar to what occurs in starvation,” said lead author Richard Johnson, MD, professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“Johnson outlines research that shows a foraging response stimulates risk taking, impulsivity, novelty seeking, rapid decision making, and aggressiveness to aid the securing of food as a survival response. Overactivation of this process from excess sugar intake may cause impulsive behavior that could range from ADHD, to bipolar disorder or even aggression. ‘While the fructose pathway was meant to aid survival, fructose intake has skyrocketed during the last century and may be in overdrive due to the high amounts of sugar that are in the current Western diet,’ Johnson adds.

“The paper looks at how excessive intake of fructose present in refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup may have a contributory role in the pathogenesis of behavioral disorders that are associated with obesity and Western diet. Johnson notes, ‘We do not blame aggressive behavior on sugar, but rather note that it may be one contributor.’

“Johnson recommends further studies to investigate the role of 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.

Ian Randall at the Times (Mailonline) finds a dissenter. “Some experts, however, have met the study’s findings with scepticism.’This is an elegant and biologically plausible model grounded in sophisticated bioecological thinking,’ developmental psychologist Edmund Sonuga-Barke of King’s College London told the Times. ‘Unfortunately, the notion that there is a consistent link between sugar consumption levels and ADHD in humans was largely debunked decades ago,’ he added.” I would counter that Johnson is talking about much more than ADHD.

Johnson has been on this for a while. In 2007, he was the lead author of “Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease,” published in the American journal of clinical nutrition. It says, “we propose that sugars containing fructose may play a major role in the development of hypertension, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome and in the subsequent development of kidney disease. Although physical inactivity and overeating are major contributors to the obesity epidemic, we present evidence that fructose may be the “caries” at the epidemic’s root.”

In a 2009 article, Johnson states, “fructose appears to mediate the metabolic syndrome in part by raising uric acid.” Now I looked up uric acid/mental health and found the connection. Here’s a screen shot, of sorts:

1. The hippocampal response to psychosocial stress varies with salivary uric acid level
AM Goodman, MD Wheelock, NG Harnett, S Mrug… – Neuroscience, 2016 – Elsevier… Therefore, understanding uric acid’s impact on the brain would provide valuable new knowledge regarding neural mechanisms that mediate the relationship between uric acid and mental health …The role of uric acid in mental health is also an emerging area of research …

2. Exploring the association between bipolar disorder and uric acid: a mediation analysis
F Bartoli, C Crocamo, GM Gennaro, G Castagna… – Journal of …, 2016 – Elsevier… Health Inpatient Unit, with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or other severe mental disorders, and an appropriate healthy control sample, were included in this cross-sectional, exploratory study.We performed linear regression analyses, to explore factors associated with uric acid …

3. Serum uric acid and cognitive function in community-dwelling older adults.
DJ Schretlen, AB Inscore, HA Jinnah, V Rao… – …, 2007 –… Uric acid’s seemingly contradictory properties have brought it into focus as a molecule that might contribute to … serum UA levels in this range would have significant implications for both public health and treatment … a score of less than 24 out of 30 on the Mini-Mental State Exam …

4. Serum uric acid and cognitive function and dementia
SM Euser, A Hofman, RGJ Westendorp, MMB Breteler – Brain, 2009 –… and in patients with Alzheimer’s disease are lower than those in healthy controls, suggesting …variation had to be within 5%. Finally, we compared the serum uric acid levels in … medical records from general practitioners and the Regional Institute for Outpatient Mental Health Care …

5. Uric acid in major depressive and anxiety disorders
CN Black, M Bot, PG Scheffer, H Snieder… – Journal of affective …, 2018 – Elsevier
… To gain insight into whether uric acid levels are a trait characteristic, or are … participants were recruited from the general population, primary care and mental health care organizations … generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia) as well as healthy control subjects …

6. Clinical correlation of alteration of endogenous antioxidant-uric acid level in major depressive disorder
K Chaudhari, S Khanzode, G Dakhale, A Saoji… – Indian Journal of Clinical …, 2010 – Springer… between subjects after 12 weeks of SSRIs treatment with that of healthy subjects. Hence it isunlikely that the alterations in serum uric acid levels were due to …

Yeah, I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company. It’s the real thing. I’m giving out Play-Doh and toys this Halloween.


Johnson, R. et al. (2020.) “Fructose and uric acid as drivers of a hyperactive foraging response: A clue to behavioral disorders associated with impulsivity or mania?”

Johnson, R. et al. (2009.) “Hypothesis: could excessive fructose intake and uric acid cause type 2 diabetes?” Endocrine Reviews. From

Johnson, R. et al. (2007.) “Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.” The American journal of clinical nutrition.

Milzer, J. (2020.) ““Could excessive sugar intake contribute to aggressive behaviors, ADHD, bipolar disorder?” Materials provided by University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Original written by Julia Milzer.From

Randall, I. (2020.) “Diet high in fructose sends an ancient human instinct to forage for food into OVERDRIVE and could lead to ‘hyperactive’ disorders like ADHD and manic depression.”


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