Drinking Soda as an Adolescent May Damage Memory

Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages during adolescence impairs memory
Cans of soda are displayed in a case at Kwik Stops Liquor in San Diego, California February 13, 2014. Sam Hodgson / Reuters

Drinking too many sugary drinks as an adolescent can lead to poorer memory function, according to the abstract of a new study released Tuesday.

When adolescent rats were fed liquid with sugar concentrations similar to common soft drinks, they were less able to perform tasks that required spatial memory.

"We looked at markers of inflammation in the hippocampus, which is responsible for the memory process, and found increased markers of inflammation," Scott Kanoski, the lead author of the study and a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Southern California, told Newsweek. He explained that the amount of sugar the rats drank would probably be above the average amount human adolescents would consume, but "certainly not an outrageous amount."

Studies have linked eating sugar and carbohydrates a raft of maladies, like obesity and diabetes, as well as one which linked it to reduced brain function in the elderly. But this study isolated sugar as consumed specifically in a beverage, and focused on adolescents, whose hippocampus is still developing.

"[O]ur 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," Kanoski explained in a statement. The full study is currently under peer review and is expected to be published within the next few months.