This week, researchers revealed a study damning soda for yet another reason: it interferes with brain function in young people.
High-fructose corn syrup (and to a lesser extent, sucrose) was the focus of the study by researchers at the University of Southern California. During the animal study, they found that daily consumption of beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose can impair the ability to learn and remember information, particularly when consumption occurs during adolescence.
The researchers gave both adult and adolescent rats daily access to sugar-sweetened beverages in concentrations that reflect the sugar quantities found in common soft drinks. Adult rats that consumed the sugar-sweetened beverages for one month performed normally in tests of cognitive function; however, when consumption occurred during adolescence the rats were impaired in tests of learning and memory capability. Additionally, the researchers found that the young rats had inflammation in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that controls many learning and memory functions.
Adults with kids may want to take this information to heart, considering the prevalence of learning disabilities and poor school performance among youth today. Imagine if the removal of a single ingredient, high fructose corn syrup (and other sources of sugar), could improve your children’s memory and learning performance. And adults should consider ditching the sweet stuff as well. In my book, Weekend Wonder Detox, I discuss the pervasive use of this cheap sweetener in most processed, packaged, prepared and fast foods. It quickly converts to fat in your body and interferes with appetite control and hormones linked to metabolism. In short, it makes you fat and makes you want to eat more.
There are obvious risks associated with a high-sugar diet. These include diabetes and obesity which can be a catalyst for other conditions like heart disease and stroke. In fact, high fructose corn syrup also causes inflammation, which restricts blood vessel walls, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. It is one of the most addictive and dangerous substances in the modern diet.
According to the National Institute of Health, two of three Americans are overweight or obese and one in three is obese. Thirty percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 19 are overweight or obese and one in six is obese. The statistics in Canada are not much different. While we all should know the danger to our body, the alarming element of this study is that our brains are not safe from these insidious sugars. More than ever, it is important to read food labels… before high fructose corn syrup-sweetened sodas make us forget how! Joking aside, the lead author of the study, Dr. Scott Kanoski, summed up his team’s findings by saying, “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.”