According to the findings of a new mouse study led by QUT and published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, children who consume too much sugar may be more likely to become obese, hyperactive, and cognitively impaired as adults. When mice were given a much lower daily dose of sucrose, the risk of sugar-induced weight gain and other health problems was reduced, supporting World Health Organization calls for a reduction in sugar intake by humans.
Excess sugar consumption in childhood has been linked to a higher body mass index (BMI) later in life. Although eating sweets on occasion is unlikely to cause major problems in the short term, it is critical to instill healthy eating habits in children as early as possible.
There is a fine line between overly restricting your child’s diet and failing to raise healthy future teenagers and adults. High sugar consumption increases the risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, especially as we age. Furthermore, excess weight can lead to joint pain, gout, and fatty liver disease.
People consume sugar and food for a variety of reasons, including pleasure and comfort. This hedonistic desire for palatable food is reward-driven, and overeating can have an impact on, if not completely override, our ability to regulate.Prof. Bartlett
According to one of the study’s lead authors, QUT neuroscientist Professor Selena Bartlett, many children, adolescents, and adults in more than 60 countries, including Australia, consume more than four times the World Health Organization’s sugar (100g) recommendation (25g per person per day).
“More research is needed to investigate the long-term effects of sugar on adolescents and adults, but our findings with the mouse model are very promising,” Professor Bartlett said.
“Recent evidence shows that obesity and impulsive behaviors caused by poor dietary habits lead to further overconsumption of processed food and beverages,” said Professor Bartlett. “However, the long-term effects on cognitive processes and hyperactivity from sugar overconsumption, beginning in adolescence, are unknown.”
“Our study discovered that long-term sugar consumption (a 12-week period with mice that began the trial at five weeks of age) at a level that significantly increases weight gain, elicits an abnormal and excessive stimulation of the nervous system in response to novelty.” It also has an effect on both episodic and spatial memory. These findings are similar to those seen in attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders.
“Human trials would be required, but it suggests a link between long-term sugar overconsumption beginning at a young age, which is more common in the Western Diet, and an increased risk of developing persistent hyperactivity and neurocognitive deficits in adulthood.”
Professor Bartlett stated that while the concept of “sugar addiction” and the classification of sugar as a substance of abuse is still being debated, there is growing evidence of overlap in the brain circuitry and molecular signaling pathways involved in sugar consumption and drug abuse.
Sugar consumption also increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which can have a negative impact on your immune system. ‘A high sugar diet can lead to diabetes, which is characterized by the body’s inability to maintain blood glucose levels,’ says Freyja. ‘High levels of glucose in the bloodstream can cause an inflammatory response, which can lead to immune system dysfunction.’
“People consume sugar and food for a variety of reasons, including pleasure and comfort. This hedonistic desire for palatable food is reward-driven, and overeating can have an impact on, if not completely override, our ability to regulate “Prof. Bartlett stated.
“It is increasingly thought that the Western Diet’s unrestricted consumption of high-sugar foods and beverages may be linked to the rising obesity epidemic. There is also a strong link between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and being overweight or obese”.
Taken together, these findings suggest that sugar-induced obesity may play a role in the development of ADHD-like symptoms in Western countries. High sugar consumption is associated with hyperactivity in children and inattention and impulsivity in adults.
“What has remained unclear, however, is whether chronic sucrose overconsumption, beginning in childhood, would have the same negative impact on our nervous system, emotions, or cognition throughout adulthood as for other addictive drugs.” This mouse study goes a long way toward answering that question. For the first time, our findings show that long-term sucrose consumption causes significant weight gain as well as persistent hyperactivity and learning impairments.”
Dr. Arnauld Belmer, a co-lead author, added that while overall sugar consumption has decreased since the mid-1990s, obesity rates have risen. “This rise in obesity rates could be due to a delayed effect of excess sugar, implying that adult obesity may be driven by high sugar intake over a lifetime,” Dr. Belmer explained.
“Interestingly, our research with mice found that reducing daily sucrose intake by fourfold prevented sugar-induced weight gain, supporting the WHO’s recommendation to limit sugar intake by this amount would be effective. It may also limit the other negative effects, such as hyperactivity and cognitive impairment.”