Consuming the equivalent of two cans can boost memory retention by a fifth and combat dementia in older people, neuroscientists from Glasgow Caledonian University found.
Psychology lecturer Dr Leigh Riby, who led the research, said people studying for exams could benefit from increasing the amount of sugar in their diet.
He focused on an area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which creates new memories but declines with the onset of dementia.
He used a series of memory tests and brain-imaging techniques to assess how volunteers responded after guzzling sugary drinks.
He found the hippocampus lit up with activity after participants had a sweetened drink and they were able to recall 17% more than without a drink.
Twenty-five volunteers aged between 18 and 52-years-old took part in the study and were asked to remember a list of words.
Those that drank orange-flavoured water containing 25g of sugar, about the same as a can of Coca-Cola, could remember 11% more words.
If the participants consumed twice that amount of sugar, they showed a17% improvement.
They were also around 100 milliseconds faster at remembering sets of letters shown to them a few minutes earlier.
Dr Riby said: “Our research shows consuming a glucose drink can significantly boost memory recall.
“What’s more, our work on young and middle aged adults shows if we can ‘train’ our bodies early in life to effectively use their own glucose reserves, poor memory function can be minimised in adulthood.”
Dr Riby’s study, which is funded by the NHS and The Wellcome Trust, aims to use glucose supplements to enhance memory in patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.