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Sugary Beverages can Affect Learning Ability, Memory in Teens

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Jul 30, 2014 03:21 AM EDT
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(Photo : REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

A new study suggests that drinking high amounts of sugary drinks during teenage years can impair learning abilities.

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Consumption of beverages with high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose has been linked to an increased risk of health issues such as diabetes and obesity. Researchers at the University of Southern California have now found that teenagers who drink large amounts of sugary drinks might face problems in learning and remembering things.

Sugary drinks are the top calorie source in an average teens' diet. Between 1989 and 2008, calories consumed from soft drinks have increased by 60 percent in children aged between 6-11 years.

"It's no secret that refined carbohydrates, particularly when consumed in soft drinks and other beverages, can lead to metabolic disturbances. 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," said Dr. Scott Kanoski from the University of Southern California, lead author of the study, according to a news release.

The study was conducted on rat models. Researchers found that sugar-laden beverages didn't affect adult rats' performance on tests that assessed their cognitive abilities. However, young rats exposed to sugar solution had poor scores on the test.

The team found that young rats on sugary drinks had an inflammation in the hippocampus - a brain region regulating learning and memory.

"The hippocampus is such a critical brain region for memory function," said Kanoski, according to a news release. "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."

The study will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB). 

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