Diets high in fructose - a type of sugar found in most processed foods and beverages - could impair spatial memory, says a study on adult rats.
To reach the conclusion, Amy Ross, a graduate student in the lab of Marise Parent, associate professor at Georgia State's Neuroscience Institute and Department of Psychology, fed a group of Sprague-Dawley rats a diet where fructose represented 60 percent of calories ingested during the day.
She placed the rats in a pool of water to test their ability to learn to find a submerged platform, which allowed them to get out of the water. She then returned them to the pool two days later with no platform present to see if the rats could remember to swim to the platform's location.
"What we discovered is that the fructose diet doesn't affect their ability to learn," Parent said.
"But they can't seem to remember as well where the platform was when you take it away. They swam more randomly than rats fed a control diet," the expert added.
Fructose, unlike another sugar, glucose, is processed almost solely by the liver, and produces an excessive amount of triglycerides - fat which get into the bloodstream.
Triglycerides can interfere with insulin signaling in the brain, which plays a major role in brain cell survival and plasticity, or the ability for the brain to change based on new experiences.