Drinking sweetened beverages during adolescence may affect memory and learning

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Weight gain and tooth decay aren’t the only side effects from sugary drinks— new research found it may damage memory, Medical Daily reported.

In research being presented this week at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior in Seattle, Wash., researchers from the University of Southern California found that consuming sweetened beverages in adolescence may be linked to impaired memory.

"It's no secret that refined carbohydrates, particularly when consumed in soft drinks and other beverages, can lead to metabolic disturbances,” lead study author, Dr. Scott Kanoski said in a press release. “However, our findings reveal that consuming sugar-sweetened drinks is also interfering with our brain's ability to function normally and remember critical information about our environment, at least when consumed in excess before adulthood.

In their animal study, researchers used beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar that mimicked concentrations found in soft drinks. After a month, the adult rats showed normal brain abilities but the adolescent rats showed impaired learning and memory.

Researchers noted that they’re not solely concerned with soda— that apple juice, lemonade, sports drinks and other sugar-sweetened drinks could be of concern, as well.

For young adults who consume these drinks throughout their lives, the study’s findings may point to future memory function problems.

"The hippocampus is such a critical brain region for memory function," Kanoski said. "In many ways this region is a canary in the coal mine, as it is particularly sensitive to insult by various environmental factors, including eating foods that are high in saturated fat and processed sugar."

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