Sweet but Bitter: Focus on Fructose Impact on Brain Function in Rodent Models

Nutrients. 2020 Dec 22;13(1):1. doi: 10.3390/nu13010001.


Fructose consumption has drastically increased during the last decades due to the extensive commercial use of high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener for beverages, snacks and baked goods. Fructose overconsumption is known to induce obesity, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and inflammation, and its metabolism is considered partially responsible for its role in several metabolic diseases. Indeed, the primary metabolites and by-products of gut and hepatic fructolysis may impair the functions of extrahepatic tissues and organs. However, fructose itself causes an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) depletion that triggers inflammation and oxidative stress. Many studies have dealt with the effects of this sugar on various organs, while the impact of fructose on brain function is, to date, less explored, despite the relevance of this issue. Notably, fructose transporters and fructose metabolizing enzymes are present in brain cells. In addition, it has emerged that fructose consumption, even in the short term, can adversely influence brain health by promoting neuroinflammation, brain mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress, as well as insulin resistance. Fructose influence on synaptic plasticity and cognition, with a major impact on critical regions for learning and memory, was also reported. In this review, we discuss emerging data about fructose effects on brain health in rodent models, with special reference to the regulation of food intake, inflammation, mitochondrial function and oxidative stress, insulin signaling and cognitive function.

Keywords: GLUT5; brain insulin resistance; brain mitochondria; brain oxidative stress; cognitive impairment; fructose diet; neuroinflammation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction
  • Eating
  • Fructose / metabolism*
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Memory
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / etiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Rodentia / physiology*
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Taste / physiology*


  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Insulin
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Fructose