Food and Behaviour Research

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Gut microbial taxa elevated by dietary sugar disrupt memory function

Noble E, Olson C, Davis E, Tsan L, Chen Y, Schade R, Liu C, Suarez A, Jones R, La Serre C, Yang X, Hsiao E, Kanoski S (2021) Translational Psychiartry 2021 Mar 31;11(1):194 doi: 10.1038/s41398-021-01309-7 

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Emerging evidence highlights a critical relationship between gut microbiota and neurocognitive development. Excessive consumption of sugar and other unhealthy dietary factors during early life developmental periods yields changes in the gut microbiome as well as neurocognitive impairments. However, it is unclear whether these two outcomes are functionally connected.

Here we explore whether excessive early life consumption of added sugars negatively impacts memory function via the gut microbiome. Rats were given free access to a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) during the adolescent stage of development. Memory function and anxiety-like behavior were assessed during adulthood and gut bacterial and brain transcriptome analyses were conducted.  Taxa-specific microbial enrichment experiments examined the functional relationship between sugar-induced microbiome changes and neurocognitive and brain transcriptome outcomes.

Chronic early life sugar consumption impaired adult hippocampal-dependent memory function without affecting body weight or anxiety-like behavior. Adolescent SSB consumption during adolescence also altered the gut microbiome, including elevated abundance of two species in the genus Parabacteroides (P. distasonis and P. johnsonii) that were negatively correlated with hippocampal function. Transferred enrichment of these specific bacterial taxa in adolescent rats impaired hippocampal-dependent memory during adulthood.

Hippocampus transcriptome analyses revealed that early life sugar consumption altered gene expression in intracellular kinase and synaptic neurotransmitter signaling pathways, whereas Parabacteroides microbial enrichment altered gene expression in pathways associated with metabolic function, neurodegenerative disease, and dopaminergic signaling. Collectively these results identify a role for microbiota "dysbiosis" in mediating the detrimental effects of early life unhealthy dietary factors on hippocampal-dependent memory function.


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