If you were to eat a bag of candy and guzzle a large soda, you might expect to feel a “sugar rush” followed by a warm glow of saccharine satisfaction. In reality, the opposite happens, according to a new study.
The scientists of the research, published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, pored over dozens of different studies on sugar consumption and its effect on people's mood. They found that sugar does not improve any aspect of mood and, if anything, it can actually leave you feeling glum.
“The idea that sugar can improve mood has been widely influential in popular culture, so much so that people all over the world consume sugary drinks to become more alert or combat fatigue," said lead author Dr Konstantinos Mantantzis of Humboldt University of Berlin.
“Our findings very clearly indicate that such claims are not substantiated – if anything, sugar will probably make you feel worse,” Mantantzis added in a statement.
The meta-analysis research reviewed 31 different studies, accounting for over 1,250 participants, that investigated the effects of soluble carbohydrates, including sugars and starches, on various aspects of mood, including anger, alertness, depression, and fatigue.
Within just half an hour after eating sugar, most people started to experience a sense of tiredness and fatigue, compared to those who took a placebo. An hour post-sugar, the majority of people start to experience lowered alertness. It seems that any neurological triggers that are stimulated in our brain's reward system after we eat sugar are very short-lived and won't result in any substantial level of boosted satisfaction or sense of well-being.
Not only is the idea of a sugar rush a myth, the researchers argue, it could also be a factor in the rise of obesity and diabetes.
“We hope that our findings will go a long way to dispel the myth of the ‘sugar rush’ and inform public health policies to decrease sugar consumption,” commented co-author Professor Elizabeth Maylor of the University of Warwick.
Co-author Dr Sandra Sünram-Lea added: “The rise in obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome in recent years highlights the need for evidence-based dietary strategies to promote a healthy lifestyle across the lifespan. Our findings indicate that sugary drinks or snacks do not provide a quick ‘fuel refill’ to make us feel more alert.”