Excessive Sugar Intake in Adolescence Linked to Mental Disorders

Source: Freepik

Using an animal model, researchers demonstrated that excessive sugar intake in adolescence increases the risk of psychiatric disorders.

Nutritionists often refer to sugar as white poison as its one of the leading causes of diabetes and obesity among adults. The significant increase in global sugar intake has further increased the incidence of these diseases. However, the future mental effects of excessive sugar intake in adolescence remain unclear. Since mental disorders such as schizophrenia, hyperactivity and bipolar disorder more frequently occur in the younger generation, researchers predict that sugar consumption might contribute to their development. Moreover, previous studies have shown that mental health patients consume almost twice the amount of sugar than healthy individuals.

Using a mice model, researchers at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science (TMIMS) assessed the effects of excessive sugar intake on higher brain function. They fed the experimental group a high-sucrose diet and observed new phenotypes and mechanisms of mental disorders. Compared to the control group, the experimental group demonstrated various psychiatric symptoms including hyperactivity and poor working memory. Moreover, study authors noticed microcapillary damage and impaired glucose uptake in the brains of these mice. The administration of aspirin, an anti-inflammatory medication, reversed these effects in the mice.

Post-Mortem Brains Show Similar Neurological Changes

When researchers looked at the post-mortem brains of people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, they observed similar brain changes. However, these patients did not have a history of excessive sugar intake. Instead, their psychiatric condition was brought on by other stressors.

Similar vascular damage to our model mice was found in the brains of randomly collected schizophrenia and bipolar disorder patients, suggesting that psychiatric disorders are associated with angiopathy in the brain caused by various environmental stresses, including metabolic stress.

study author

The results of the study suggest that sugar consumption caused metabolic stress that brings about similar neurological changes as other stressors. Thus, bringing out psychiatric illnesses in people.

Previously, researchers had linked an unhealthy childhood diet to long-term alteration of gut bacteria. In conclusion, avoiding processed foods and refined sugars can likely benefit one in the long term, both mentally and physically. 


Hirai, S., et al. (2021) High-sucrose diets contribute to brain angiopathy with impaired glucose uptake and psychosis-related higher brain dysfunctions in mice. Science Advances. doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abl6077.


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