Not just obesity, junk food, energy drinks may affect memory in kids

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Junk Food
Junk Food

Junk food is not only found to be bad for waist lines, but also bad for the teen brain

That junk food and energy drinks (with excess sugar) cause unwanted weight gain in young adults is well known but a new study suggests they may also have adverse effects on learning and memory.

These are just two of the factors potentially affecting teen brain development examined in a new special issue of Birth Defects Research: The Teenage Brain, published by the Teratology Society with John Wiley & Sons. The scientific journal issue released today includes “Taurine, Caffeine, and Energy Drinks: Reviewing the Risks to the Adolescent Brain” by a team at Northern Kentucky University, headed by lead author Christine Curran.

One piece of good news is that exercise might be the answer to steer teens away from certain exposures

According to Dr. Curran, not only is the rise in energy drink consumption (often mixed with alcohol) among teens alarming, but so are animal studies showing its effects on brain development. “Our review indicates that we don’t know enough about the effects of high consumption of energy drinks and the ingredients found in them at this critical time in mammalian brain development. Our recent findings in adolescent and young adult mice exposed to high taurine levels indicate there can be adverse effects on learning and memory and increased alcohol consumption in females,” she said.

Another review included in the special issue examines junk food, which is defined as “highly palatable and rewarding, but nutritionally poor.” According to lead author, Amy Reichelt of RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, junk food is not only found to be bad for waist lines, but also bad for the teen brain.

“Because key neurotransmitter systems in the brain responsible for inhibition and reward signaling are still developing during the teen years, existing primarily on junk food could negatively affect decision making, increase reward-seeking behavior and influence poor eating habits throughout adulthood,” said Dr. Reichelt.

“One piece of good news is that exercise might be the answer to steer teens away from certain exposures,” explained Michiko Watanabe, co-editor of the special Birth Defects Research issue.