Sugar-sweetened beverages, most notably soft drinks and sweetened juices, are a regular part of the diets of many adolescents. Sugar-sweetened beverages make up 48 percent of added sugars in the diet, most coming from soft drinks. Adolescents enjoy more freedom than they experienced during earlier childhood, which may lead to the increased consumption of such beverages.

A recent study presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior found that daily consumption of beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup or sugar can impair the ability to learn and remember information, particularly in adolescents.

“It’s no secret that refined carbohydrates, particularly when consumed in soft drinks and other beverages, can lead to metabolic disturbances,” noted Scott Kanosky, PhD. “However, our findings reveal that consuming sugar-sweetened drinks is also interfering with our brain’s ability to function normally and remember critical information about our environment, at least when consumed in excess before adulthood.”

The researchers used an animal model in which adult and adolescent rats were given access to sugar-sweetened beverages that contained the equivalent sugar content of soft drinks. They found that sugar-sweetened beverages interfered with normal brain function memory when consumed in excess before adulthood, suggesting that this is a particular sensitive developmental period when it comes to brain health.

Adolescence is also a difficult period to make dietary changes, but reducing sugar intake is worth the trouble. For some healthy beverage options (and so much more!), check out Elana’s Pantry. Elana Amsterdam has been publishing healthy recipes on her blog for years. It’s a goldmine of goodness.