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Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Decay Teen Brains

Update Date: Jul 29, 2014 05:00 PM EDT

Drinking sugary drinks rots the teenage brain, according to a new study. Researchers fond that daily consumption of beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose can seriously damage learning and memory capacity. The latest findings reveal that damage is particularly pronounced during adolescent years.

In the study, researchers gave adult and adolescent rats daily access to sugar-sweetened beverages that contained similar concentrations of sugar found in common soft drinks.

Researchers said that the adult rats that that consumed the sugar-sweetened beverages for one month performed normally in tests of cognitive function. However, adolescent rats experienced significant impairment on learning and memory tests after a month of drinking sugar-sweetened beverage.

"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," lead author Dr. Scott Kanoski from the University of Southern California said in a news release.

Researchers explain that sugar-sweetened beverages can also trigger inflammation in the hippocampus, the brain region that controls many learning and memory functions.

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

"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," he added.

The findings were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB) in Seattle.

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