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Glucose linked to better memory, small study

By staff reporter , 16-Jan-2006

Sugary drinks may have been vilified by health and nutrition campaigners, but a new study suggests that supplementary glucose can boost the memory.

For the study published in the December issue of Human Psychopharmacology, Leigh Riby and colleague at Glasgow Caledonian University gave 25 adults aged 18 to 52 a flavoured water containing either 25g of sugar (roughly the same as a can of Coca Cola), 50g of sugar, or a placebo.

In the memory tests that followed, they observed that the 25g group could remember 11 percent better than the placebo group, and the 50g group 17 percent better.

A possible reason for this could be that glucose affects neural mechanisms, such as the hippocampus, which support memory function but decline with age.

"Task demands and age (young vs middle-aged) contributed to the magnitude of memory enhancement," they wrote. "This finding suggests an age- and load-specific benefit of glucose intake."

The evidence also suggests that the enhancement could be greater in those with good glucose regulation.

Sugary drinks like Coca Cola are amongst the products banned from vending machines in UK schools last year as part of a drive to reduce junk food consumption by children.

Instead of advocating sugary drinks as the best means to enhance memory, Riby recognizes that it would be better for people with poor memory were able to use their natural sugar reserves more effectively.

Amongst other purported health effects, consuming large amounts of sugar can have a detrimental effects on teeth and might cause blood sugar levels to spike.

In the US, a Tufts University study last year found that 67 percent of NHANS respondent reported drinking as much as three servings of soda or sweet drinks each day. As much as 14 percent of their total daily energy was coming from sweet drinks.

The implication of this was that the nutrition gap is even wider than previously thought, as people may be choosing these drinks instead of other energy sources containing beneficial nutrients.

However allegations that soft drinks are to blame for America's obesity crisis have been roundly and repeatedly denied by the American Beverage Association.

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