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Too Much Sugar Consumption in Teenage Life May Impair Memory During Adulthood, Study Warns

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Excessive consumption of added sugars is already known to be associated with a range of health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain, and heart and liver disease. Now, a team of US researchers has discovered that the sweetener can serve as a ticking time bomb on the brain.

Too much sugar during adolescence can affect the development of the hippocampus – the part of the brain critical for learning and memory – a groundbreaking new study by researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of California, Los Angeles has revealed.

The research, published in Transitional Psychiatry – a peer-reviewed scientific journal – investigated the impact of sugary beverages on adolescent rodents. It determined that the control group of animals which consumed the sugar-laced drinks showed impaired performance on a learning and memory task dependent on the hippocampus during adulthood compared to a control group that was not given such beverages. 

Specifically, researchers found that giving the juvenile rats an 11 percent sugar solution – similar to that found in commercial soft drinks, increased levels of parabacteroides – a kind of gut bacteria. The study demonstrated that higher levels of parabacteroides led to lower episodic contextual memory performance among the sugar-addled rats in later life.

“We found that rats that consumed sugar in early life had an impaired capacity to discriminate that an object was novel to a specific context, a task the rats that were not given sugar were able to do,” Dr. Emily Noble, study coauthor and University of Georgia professor specialising in food and nutritional biochemistry, explained in a press release.

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Bottles of Coca-Cola are seen at a Carrefour Hypermarket store in Montreuil, near Paris, France, February 5, 2018

Researchers further proved their hypothesis about parabacteroides by experimentally enriching the guts of animals which were not raised on sugar with the bacteria.

“Early life sugar increased parabacteroides levels, and the higher the levels of parabacteroides, the worse the animals did in the task,” Noble said, noting that the presence of the bacteria alone “was sufficient to impair memory in the same way as sugar, but it also impaired other types of memory functions as well.”


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AP Photo / Denis Poroy

Shoppers tour the cereal aisle at a San Diego supermarket. File photo.

Researchers also experimented with a separate memory task independent of the hippocampus – involving the rats’ ability to recognize things that they had seen before, finding that sugar had no impact on the latter function, leading them to conclude that parabacteroides’ negative impact was hippocampus-specific.

Dr. Noble suggested that further research is necessary to determine how gut bacteria may determine the development of the brain, and said that “identifying how the bacteria in the gut are impacting brain development will tell us about what sort of internal environment the brain needs in order to grow in a healthy way.”

The dangers of excessive sugar consumption have been discussed at length for many decades, with anti-sugar campaigners proposing taxation and other means to try to restrict consumption. Sugar producers and companies whose products contain large amounts of the sweetener have resisted these efforts, however, painting the matter as a freedom of choice issue. Excessive sugar consumption is a problem in many countries, with the average intake among the global top ten consumers ranging from 89.10 grams to 126.4 grams daily, well above the 24 grams of sugar recommended by the American Heart Association.



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EU to propose universal phone-charger law

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The EU plans to propose laws harmonising mobile-phone, tablet, and headphone chargers and ports on Thursday in a bid to make life easier for consumers, Reuters reports. But Apple, whose iPhones use a special ‘Lightning cable’ has said the move will lead to piles of waste and deter innovation. Rival Android-based devices use so-called ‘USB-C’ connectors, but ‘USB micro-B’ and Lightning connectors account for about a third each of market-share.

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Brexit: British Embassy launches survey on key issues affecting UK nationals in Spain | Brexit | International

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The British Embassy in Madrid has launched a survey aimed at finding out how UK nationals in Spain have been affected by key issues, in particular, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, a process commonly known as Brexit.

The poll is for Britons who are full-time residents in Spain (not those with second homes) and are covered by the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, i.e. they were officially registered in the country before December 31, 2020, when the so-called Transition Period came to an end.

Questions in the survey address issues such as access to healthcare and the uptake of the TIE residency cards, which were introduced as a replacement for green residency cards (either the credit-card size or the A4 sheet version, officially known as the Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión).

As we approach a year since the end of the Transition Period, we really want to hear from you about the key issues…

Posted by Brits in Spain on Friday, September 17, 2021

The aim of the poll is to gather vital information on the experience of UK nationals living in Spain that will help the British Embassy provide feedback to Spanish authorities. The survey takes around 10 minutes to complete, and all answers are confidential.

Have you heard our Spanish news podcast ¿Qué? Each week we try to explain the curious, the under-reported and sometimes simply bizarre news stories that are often in the headlines in Spain.



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‘The challenge for us now is drought, not war’: livelihoods of millions of Afghans at risk | Global development

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The war in Afghanistan might be over but farmers in Kandahar’s Arghandab valley face a new enemy: drought.

It has hardly rained for two years, a drought so severe that some farmers are questioning how much longer they can live off the land.

Mohammed Rahim, 30, grew up working on a farm along with his father and grandfather in the Arghandab district of Afghanistan’s southern province. Famous for its fruit and vegetables, the area is known as the bread basket of Kandahar.

Like most in the valley, Rahim’s family relies solely on farming. “The fighting has just stopped. Peace has returned,” Rahim says. “But now we face another war: drought.

“Now we have to dig deep to pump water out of the land. It has been two years, there has been little rain and we have a drought here. I don’t know if our coming generations can rely on farming the way our ancestors used to do.”

Pir Mohammed, 60, has been a farmer for more than four decades. “Not long ago, there were water channels flowing into the farm and we were providing the remaining water to other farmers,” says Mohammed. “Before, the water was running after us, flowing everywhere – but now we are running after water.”

The water used to come free from the river but now the daily diesel cost for the water pump is at least 2,500 Afghani (£21).

“We don’t make any profit. We are in loss, rather. Instead, we are using our savings. But we don’t have any other option as we do it for survival,” says Mohammed. “However, the scarcity of water has affected the quality of crops as well.”

About 70% of Afghans live in rural areas and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of drought.

Last week, Rein Paulsen, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience, said severe drought was affecting 7.3 million people in 25 of the country’s 34 provinces.

He warned: “If agriculture collapses further, it will drive up malnutrition, increase displacement and worsen the humanitarian situation.”

Arghandab has been a favourite destination for farming because of the abundance of water and fertile lands. Neikh Mohammed, 40, left the Dand district of Kandahar to work in Arghandab in 2005. When he arrived he was amazed to see the greenery and pomegranate farms.

A dam affected by drought in Kandahar.
A dried up dam in Kandahar. A majority of Afghans are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of drought, as they live in rural areas. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

“It used to rain a lot here and we could not cross the river and come into our farms. We had a life with abundant water. But the past is another country now,” he says.

According to a report by the UN mission in Afghanistan, many local farmers were caught in the crossfire between the Taliban and the Afghan security forces. The Taliban carried out attacks from thick foliage on the farms, which provided a hiding place, ideal for an ambush.

“For the past 20 years, we did not have peace and could not work after dark in our farms. But now we can stay as long as we want without any fear,” says Neikh Mohammed. “Now the challenge is not just restoring peace but the drought and escalating cost of essential commodities.”

Farmers say they want support from international aid agencies and assistance from the new government headed by the Taliban to help them survive.

Pir Mohammed says: “The real challenge for us now is drought, not war. We need food, water, dams and infrastructure in our country. The world should invest in us and save us.”

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