A new study from the University of Georgia, USA, has used a rodent model to demonstrate that excess sugar intake between the ages of 9-18 years can negatively affect the development of the brain, specifically a region known to be critically important for learning and memory called the hippocampus.  This can have repercussions on learning and memory tasks during adulthood.

The hippocampus develops well into adolescence and excess sugar may affect it via changes in the bacterial content (the microbiome) of the gut. It is now well recognised that an unhealthy set of gut bacteria can negatively affect brain and immune function. Early life sugar increased Parabacteroides levels, and the higher the levels of Parabacteroides, the worse the effect on memory-related tasks.

Excess sugar is a real issue with supermarket shelves filled with sugary drinks and highly processed foods, making it so easy for children and adolescents (and adults!) to consume sugar well in excess of the recommended 10% of dietary calories.

Over time we are learning that excessive sugar not only affects diabetes and heart disease, but also has an effect on brain development!

Science Daily, 31 March 2021