Study finds link between sugar and memory loss

Laced with nearly nine spoonfuls of the white stuff, a can of fizzy can give you just the sugar hit you think you need. But researchers now say memory loss can be added to the negative side effects.

"Some cancers, type 2 diabetes, gout and heart disease and dental cavities - so yeah this is just one more thing that it could possibly be linked to," says Dr Gerhard Sundborn from Fighting Sugar in Soft Drinks, or FIZZ.

In the Sydney University study, lab rats were given unlimited sugar water for eight weeks then tested on their ability to recall the location of things in their cages, which they couldn't do. That finding tallies with human studies linking Alzheimer's to sugar intake.

"We've got post-mortem brain analysis from humans saying the hippocampus gets damaged with excess sugar," says Dr Kieron Rooney from the University of Sydney Faculty of Health Sciences. "We've got rat data going, well, actually memory function is also damaged when we feed them excess sugar. It took seven weeks for the rats to recover their memory, but some male rats never got back to their old selves.

"Yes, we can recover - particularly females - but we can't recover everything," says Dr Rooney.

The trial is at an early stage and the group representing the soft drink industry in Australia says it should be taken with a pinch of salt - partly because of the small sample size, but also because we can't necessarily apply studies on rats to humans.

The Australian researchers are recruiting to replicate the trial in humans, but experts here say it's already proof enough of the need for a tax.

"We know that with smoking there were no real changes until there was a tax brought in on smoking and we really need the same for sugary drinks," says Dr Sundborn.

The Government hasn't ruled a sugar tax in or out, but lobbyists say the evidence is piling up.