How Sugar Impacts the Brain
February 17, 2016
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A new study indicates that sugar can harm the brain just like abuse and stress. Researchers from the University of New South Wales Australia have shed light on the extent of damage sugar drinks can do to the brain. They observed extensive changes to the part of the brain that controls behavior and emotions in rats who consumed sugar-water.
The effect of sugary drinks on the brains of rats was similar to that caused by extreme early life stress. They also found that prolonged intake of sugar in rats not exposed to stress upon birth had comparable changes in the hippocampus, as in rats exposed to stress without sugar-water consumption.
“The changes in the brain induced by sugar are of great concern given the high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, with particularly high consumption in children aged nine to 16 years,” the researchers said.
Even a short-term diet of junk food can have a detrimental effect on the brain’s cognitive ability, according to UNSW research in 2013. Researchers found that rats fed a diet high in fat and sugar had impaired memory after just a week. The results were similarly poor for the rats fed a healthy diet and given access to sugar water to drink.
“We know that obesity causes inflammation in the body, but we didn’t realise until recently that it also causes changes in the brain,” said one of the authors Professor Margaret Morris from UNSW Medicine. “What is so surprising about this research is the speed with which the deterioration of the cognition occurred. Our preliminary data also suggests that the damage is not reversed when the rats are switched back to a healthy diet, which is very concerning.”
The 2013 study was published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.