Understanding the Impact of Sugar and Fat on Memory




We are all aware that what we eat has changed over the years. Foods that we used to eat as treats or when we were celebrating, have now become part of our daily consumption. The freely available chocolates, sweets, cakes and sodas has led to an increase in the amount of saturated fat and refined sugar in our daily diets. In addition, sugar is now added to so much of the food that we eat, to make us want more and buy more, that it is becoming increasing difficult to avoid.

This increase in sugar and saturated fat is known to cause obesity, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. There is increasing evidence that this diet affects learning and memory as well (Molteni et al, Morris et al). It has been found that a high fat, high sugar diet causes shrinkage of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain important in memory(Jacka et al).

Diets high in saturated fat and sugar:

  • Impair learning and memory in children
  • In adults, even short-term exposure affects learning. This effect worsens with long-term exposure
  • Increases the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia

“What we eat affects our memory and ability to learn.”

How much should you have?

For an average requirement of 2000 calories, your total sugar consumption should be less than 5-6 teaspoons of sugar/day in total. A can of soda has about 9 teaspoons of sugar.

A useful website for further information is:


Saturated fat consumption should be less than 11% of total calories consumed. This can be difficult to calculate on an individual, daily basis but aim to reduce the amount you are currently having.

A useful website for further information is:


Understand what you are eating. Understand how much sugar and fat is in the food you are eating. Decide which foods you can cut down or cut out to reduce your sugar and fat intake. Set goals that you can achieve and you will. Watch surgeon Peter Attia’s opinion on the sugar and diabetes, and how cutting down on refined sugar helped him.

Good nutrition is one aspect of keeping your brain healthy. More advice on nutrition and other aspects of brain health are available on www.memorability.co.

Dr Kirti Ranchod

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