High Fructose Corn Syrup and Sugar Cause Memory Loss in Adolescent Rats

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Scientists have found that adolescent rats who consumed high amounts of sugar were subject to memory loss. In the study, rats that freely consumed liquid solutions made of high fructose corn syrup and sugar concentrations, similar to those found in many of today’s popular sugar sweetened beverages, experienced brain inflammation that caused memory problems.

“The brain is especially vulnerable to dietary influences during critical periods of development, like adolescence,” said Scott Kanoski, corresponding author of the study and an assistant professor at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The study, which tested 76 rats in all, was conducted by Kanoski, along with colleagues Ted Hsu, Vaibhav Konanur, Lilly Taing, Ryan Usui, Brandon Kayser, and Michael Goran.

In all, 35-40 percent of the rat’s caloric intake came from sugar or high fructose corn syrup. While that’s extraordinarily high, the average teen gets 17 percent of their total caloric intake from sugar sweetened beverages.

Rats were tested in a maze and those that had consumed the sugar and high fructose corn syrup had trouble performing well on the maze due to neuro inflammation.

“Consuming a diet high in added sugars not only can lead to weight gain and metabolic disturbances, but can also negatively impact our neural functioning and cognitive ability.” Kanoski said.

Previous research by Koran has shown the impact of high fructose corn syrup on children. It found that because high fructose corn syrup in particular dampens leptin in the brain (a hormone that tells you when you’re full) kids that had high amounts of it during development were prone to obesity.

“High levels of fructose promote the greater development of fats,” Dr. Goran said to Discovery Health. “When fetal cells are developing they have the choice of what kind of cell they will become but consumption of high levels of fructose seem to cause the development of more fat cells.”

All the more reason to cut the sugar, whatever the form, from your diet.

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Image: jdrephotography

Sara Novak
Sara Novak

Sara Novak is an independent journalist who reports on health, science, yoga, and travel. She was a writer for Discovery Communications from 2006-2013 and her work has been featured on Discovery Health, Popular Science, TLC, Animal Planet, What to Expect, TreeHugger, and many more. She’s also a certified yoga teacher. When she's not churning away on her laptop, she can be found atop her yoga mat or walking the beach with her husband, baby boy, and two lovable cocker spaniels.