According to a study in rodents, high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages during adolescence can affect brain development and cause impairments in learning and memory in adulthood. While previous research linked high-sugar diets to obesity and heart disease and even impaired memory function, less is known about their effects on mental development, particularly the hippocampus, the brain region critical for learning and memory.
New findings, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, show that higher sugar consumption early in life increases levels of parabacteroides, a type of gut bacteria. The higher the level of Parabacteroides, the worse animals that perform in memory and learning task.
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For the study, the team gave the young mice their regular meals and an 11 percent sugar solution comparable to commercially available sugary drinks. The rats were then subjected to a hippocampus-dependent memory task designed to measure episodic contextual memory or to remember the context in which they previously saw a familiar object.
“We have found that rats consuming sugar early in life have a poor capacity to distinguish that an object is new in a certain context, a task that sugar-free rats can do,” said Assistant Professor, lead author Emily Noble. At the University of Georgia in Athens, USA
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“The consumption of sweets early in life seems to selectively impair hippocampal learning and memory,” Noble said. Additionally, the researchers experimentally increased parabacteroid levels in the microbiome of rats that had never consumed sugar. These animals showed impairments in both hippocampal dependent and hippocampal independent memory tasks.
“(Bacteria) caused some cognitive deficits on their own. “We found that bacteria alone are enough to disrupt memory in the same way as sugar, but they also impair other memory functions,” Noble said. He noted that future research is needed to better determine how gut bacteria alter the development of the brain. (IANS / SP)