Excessive sugar consumption during adolescence promotes depression in adulthood

Sugary foods

A Franco-Canadian research team worked on the effects of sugar consumption in adolescence. According to the results of their study, excessive sugar consumption during one’s teenage years would have adverse effects on the maturing brain and would promote depression in adulthood.

In adolescence, the brain changes considerably. Sodas, cookies, candies… what if consumption of sugar during adolescence  negatively impacted adulthood? A team of French-Canadian researchers wanted to know if high sugar consumption during adolescence could induce constant changes in the brain. The results of their study appeared in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

The scientists worked with two groups of mice: one had access to simple water and the other to simple or sweet water at will. First, the mice of the second group went exclusively to the sugar water, which they preferred by far. Then, in adulthood, the mice who had consumed unlimited sugar water during their adolescence, presented behaviors different from the other mice, notably a decrease in motivation, an increase in anxiety-type behavior, an increase in immobility in the forced swimming test and a decrease in neurogenesis (cell proliferation) in the hippocampus.

In preclinical models, these alterations are the manifestation of a “depressive” state. Moreover, antidepressant treatment prevented the occurrence of these symptoms in the mice, which consumed too much sugar. These results show that over-consumption of sugary foods during adolescence would have adverse effects on brain maturation and mental health in adulthood.

The researchers also repeated the experiment, but this time with adult mice. They observed the same immobility in the forced swimming test. This would mean that sugar consumption in adults also has consequences for the brain, but to a lesser extent. The goal now is to identify the neural circuits involved in these processes.

Paige Driessen

Paige is an Arizona native who loves the outdoor life. She writes about a wide range of topics for The Talking Democrat