How Dietary Sugar Intake Can Disrupt Memory Function

New research from the University of Georgia has shown that daily consumption of high sugar content in beverages consumed by adolescents has impaired performance on a memory and learning task during adulthood.

It is known that children consume the highest levels of added sugar to their diet. This has been linked to health affects relevant to heart disease, obesity and even loss of memory function. But it is not known how this affects children during the development of the region of the brain known as the hippocampus. The hippocampus is specifically important for memory and learning.

The team used mice in their study and found that changes in the gut bacteria, known as Parabacteroides showed memory deficits. The team enriched the levels of Parabacteroides in the mice, experimentally. They found that the mice performed worse depending on the higher levels of Parabacteroides. Consuming sugar early in life increases Parabacteroide levels leading to impairment of memory function.

The dietary guidelines suggest a sugar intake of less than 10% of calories per day. It has been shown that children between 9-18 consume more than this mainly coming from sugar-sweetened beverages.

In relation to a high sugar intake, researchers wanted to learn more about the consequences of a high sugar diet via gut microbiota. The mice were given their normal diet with a sugar solution of 11%. This is comparable to the sugar in a beverage. They then had the mice perform a memory task. The mice that had consumed the sugar showed a lower capacity to discriminate objects to a specific purpose. The mice without the sugar were able to perform this without any problem.

The analyses confirmed that consumption of high sugar levels lead to heightened levels of Parabacteroides in the gut microbiome. Even the mice that had never consumed sugar showed impairment when their levels of Parabacteroides were increased experimentally.

Further research is needed to explain how high levels of this bacteria in the gut can alter development of the brain.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Gut microbial taxa elevated by dietary sugar disrupt memory function