According to a recent study, sugar-sweetened food and beverages consumption during adolescence can impair learning and memorizing abilities during adulthood.
Children are the highest consumers of sugar, and the study shows that along with the devastating impacts it can have on physical health, sugar can also severely affect a child's brain, from psychological wellbeing to cognitive function. It specifically affects the brain's hippocampus region, known to be critically important for learning and memory.
The paper titled "Gut microbial taxa elevated by dietary sugar disrupt memory function" was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
The research led by a University of Georgia faculty member in collaboration with a University of Southern California also showed that the changes in the bacteria in the gut could be the reason for the sugar-induced memory impairment.
In the study, juvenile rats were given their standard chow and an 11 per cent sugar solution, equivalent to the commercially available sugar-sweetened beverages. A hippocampus-dependent memory task designed to measure rats' memory in the context where they had seen a familiar object before was also performed on them.
However, sugar levels did not affect the animals' recognition memory when they were made to go through a hippocampal-independent memory test.
"We found that rats that consumed sugar in early life had an impaired capacity to discriminate that an object was novel to a specific context, a task the rats that were not given sugar were able to do. Early life sugar consumption seems to selectively impair their hippocampal learning and memory," said Emily Noble, first author of the study paper.
The scientists also found that high sugar consumption led to elevated levels of Parabacteroides in the gut microbiome, which, when experimented on animals, showed impairments in hippocampal-dependent and hippocampal-independent memory tasks.
The researchers are now hoping to conduct further research on how the population of bacteria in the gut alters the brain's development.