Paper in Appetite
- Kendig, M.D. (2014). Cognitive and behavioural effects of sugar consumption in rodents. A review. Appetite, 80, 41-54.
The pronounced global rise in sugar consumption in recent years has been driven largely by increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Although high sugar intakes are recognised to increase the risk of obesity and related metabolic disturbances, less is known about how sugar might also impair cognition and learned behaviour. This review considers the effects of sugar in rodents on measures of learning and memory, reward processing, anxiety and mood. The parallels between sugar consumption and addictive behaviours are also discussed. The available evidence clearly indicates that sugar consumption can induce cognitive dysfunction. Deficits have been found most consistently on tasks measuring spatial learning and memory. Younger animals appear to be particularly sensitive to the effects of sugar on reward processing, yet results vary according to what reward-related behaviour is assessed. Sugar does not appear to produce long-term effects on anxiety or mood. Importantly, cognitive impairments have been found when intake approximates levels of sugar consumption in people and without changes to weight gain. There remain several caveats when extrapolating from animal models to putative effects of sugar on cognitive function in people. These issues are discussed in conjunction with potential underlying neural mechanisms and directions for future research.