Sugar won’t get you in a rush, but it can definitely sour your mood.
We don’t get a mood boost from sugar — it doesn’t even make us more alert. Rather, it tires us after consumption. These are the findings of a new study from the University of Warwick, Humboldt University of Berlin, and Lancaster University which tried to determine if there is such a thing as a ‘sugar rush’.
“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,” said lead author Dr. Konstantinos Mantantzis, from the Humboldt University of Berlin.
“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.”
“Our findings very clearly indicate that such claims are not substantiated — if anything, sugar will probably make you feel worse.”
The team analyzed data from 31 published studies, involving roughly 1300 adults to investigate the effects of sugar on our mood, including anger, alertness, depression, and fatigue. They also looked at how factors such as the quantity and type of sugar consumed can affect mood, and whether or not engaging in demanding activities made any difference in this outcome.
In broad lines, the team reports that:
- The consumption of sugar has virtually no effect on mood. This was consistent across multiple quantities and varieties of sugar, or whether participants engaged in demanding activities after consuming sugar.
- Participants who consumed sugar felt more tired and less alert than those who hadn’t.
- ‘Sugar rushes’ are a myth, the team finding no evidence in favor of their existence.
The team says that the results rather suggest that consuming sugar will make you feel worse, not better. They hope that the study will help nudge people into rethinking how sugar fits into their diets and lifestyles.
“The rise in obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome in recent years highlights the need for evidence-based dietary strategies to promote healthy lifestyle across the lifespan,” says co-author Elizabeth Maylor, a Professor at the University of Warwick.
“Our findings indicate that sugary drinks or snacks do not provide a quick ‘fuel refill’ to make us feel more alert.”
The paper “Sugar Rush or Sugar Crash? A Meta-Analysis of Carbohydrate Effects on Mood” has been published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.