Too Much Sugar Can Negatively Impact The Brain

How does a diet that's high in sugar affect a person's brain?

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Know a teen with a serious sweet tooth? Well, you may want to share this news with them ASAP. A recent study shows that a diet that's high in sugar and fat can cause changes to gut bacteria, which may cause a loss of "cognitive flexibility." Scientific terminology aside, here's what that really means: Eating too many sweets can negatively impact a person's brain, including the ability to adapt to changing situations. It also affect people's long-term and short-term memories. Yikes!

This study was conducted by researchers at Oregon State University, who worked with laboratory mice that consumed different diets and then performed various tests.

The principal investigator Kathy Magnusson says,

It's increasingly clear that our gut bacteria, or microbiota, can communicate with the human brain... This work suggests that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that's one of the reasons those foods aren't good for you. It's not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.

In another recent study, scientists found that sugary beverages may suppress stress, which also isn't good news for the brain. Suppressing those kinds of emotions can cause them to grow stronger.

We're not suggesting teens remove sugar from their diets completely, but the good news is that there are ways to re-train their sweet tooth — which can, in turn, hopefully prevent health problems down the road.

Check out the "Sugar Shocker" article from the September 2014 issue of Choices. It features tips and tricks to cut down on the sweets!