The sweet answer to a poor memory

Sweet tooth types out there will be delighted to learn that those sweet and sugary drinks may improve the memory.

Research has apparently shown that those sugary drinks condemned by health campaigners and dentists alike can significantly boost the memory.

According to team of neuroscientists from Glasgow's Caledonian University, drinking the equivalent of two cans of soft drink can boost memory retention by a fifth and may even help combat dementia in older people.

Psychology lecturer Dr Leigh Riby, who led the research, said people studying for exams could benefit from increasing the amount of sugar in their diet.

He believes his research shows links between the levels of glucose in the body and the brain's ability to make new memories and recall old ones.

His research apparently focused on an area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which creates new memories.

This area declines with the onset of dementia.

In order to assess how volunteers responded after consuming sugary drinks, Riby used a series of memory tests and brain- imaging techniques.

Twenty-five volunteers aged between 18 and 52 years old took part in the study and were asked to remember a list of words.

Those that drank orange-flavoured water containing 25g of sugar, about the same as a can of Coca-Cola, could remember 11 per cent more words.

He found the hippocampus lit up with activity after participants had a sweetened drink and they were able to recall 17 per cent more than without a drink.

He says that when young and middle-aged adults are given glucose supplements, their memory activity increases as their brains are flooded with glucose.

He says it is widely accepted that when humans face a stressful situation they experience a natural rise in glucose in the body, particularly in the hippocampus, and the glucose-memory system has evolved to help humans survive.

Unfortunately it becomes compromised in old age but we still remember the dangerous or frightening incidences more clearly than other memories.

Dr Riby is hoping to develop techniques which help adults with poor memory to use their natural sugar reserves more effectively.

He says it is sensible to do this as much as possible through natural diet, as there are a range of reasons not to give people lots of sugar.

He says he now encourages his students to have an energy drink before lectures, as it helps them learn more.

Dr Riby's study, which is funded by the National Health Service (NHS) and The Wellcome Trust, aims to use glucose supplements to enhance memory in patients with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Dementia affects more than 63,000 people in Scotland alone and costs the NHS millions of pounds in care.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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