High-sugar diet in adolescence can impair memory later

High intake of sugar-sweetened beverages during adolescence can affect brain development and cause impairments in learning and memory in adulthood, shows a study conducted on rodents.

While previous research linked high-sugar diets with obesity and heart disease and even impaired memory function, less is known about its effects on mental development particularly on the hippocampus — brain region critical for learning and memory.

The new findings, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, showed that higher consumption sugar during early life increased the level of parabacteroides — a type of gut bacteria. The higher the level of parabacteroides, the worse the animals performed in the memory and learning task. Early life sugar consumption seems to selectively impair their hippocampal learning and memory.

(The bacteria) induced some cognitive deficits on its own. It was found that the bacteria alone was sufficient to impair memory in the same way as sugar, but it also impaired other types of memory functions as well. She noted that future research is needed to better identify how the gut bacteria alters development of the brain.