Sugar – as in sweet sodas – disrupts kids’ brain development.

Translational Psychiatry has some research that should be making a bigger splash. It indicates that feeding kids more sugar affects the development of their brains and their ability to form memories:

(from the abstract)
Here we explore whether excessive early life consumption of added sugars negatively impacts memory function via the gut microbiome. Rats were given free access to a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) during the adolescent stage of development. Memory function and anxiety-like behavior were assessed during adulthood and gut bacterial and brain transcriptome analyses were conducted. Taxa-specific microbial enrichment experiments examined the functional relationship between sugar-induced microbiome changes and neurocognitive and brain transcriptome outcomes. Chronic early life sugar consumption impaired adult hippocampal-dependent memory function without affecting body weight or anxiety-like behavior. Adolescent SSB consumption during adolescence also altered the gut microbiome, including elevated abundance of two species in the genus Parabacteroides (P. distasonis and P. johnsonii) that were negatively correlated with hippocampal function. Transferred enrichment of these specific bacterial taxa in adolescent rats impaired hippocampal-dependent memory during adulthood. Hippocampus transcriptome analyses revealed that early life sugar consumption altered gene expression in intracellular kinase and synaptic neurotransmitter signaling pathways, whereas Parabacteroides microbial enrichment altered gene expression in pathways associated with metabolic function, neurodegenerative disease, and dopaminergic signaling. Collectively these results identify a role for microbiota “dysbiosis” in mediating the detrimental effects of early life unhealthy dietary factors on hippocampal-dependent memory function.

Your hippocampus is the little seahorse-shaped brain structure that forms memories and regulates the way we plan for the future. You can see where this can be important as a child’s brain develops. It’s also where some of the first signs of Alzheimer’s are displayed later in life, and hippocampus damage is implicated in depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.