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We all love sweets, but scientists in New Zealand have discovered that simple sugars like glucose can have a negative effect on a person’s cognitive performance.
“Glucose” comes from the Greek word for “Sweet”. It’s a type of sugar you get from foods you eat that your body uses it for energy. As it travels through your bloodstream to your cells, it’s called blood glucose or blood sugar.
Researchers conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study and found that sweeteners that contained glucose are responsible for reduced attention and response times.
The study was published in an online scientific journal called Physiology and Behaviour.
“I am fascinated by how our senses influence our behavior and affect our everyday lives,” said study author Mei Peng, a lecturer in sensory science at the University of Otago. “In particular, how sugar consumption might change the way our brains work. In the case of sweetness perception, we have evolved to favor this taste.”
Previously conducted research on glucose ingestion showed improved memory performance. However, mixed results were found when the effect of glucose on other cognitive process was examined.
The Study & Results:
49 people participated in the study by consuming sweetened drinks containing either glucose, sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), or sucralose (an artificial sweetener) before completing three tests. The tests consisted of a Response Time Task, Arithmetic Processing, and the Stroop Task.
The participant’s blood glucose levels were measured during the tests.
The results revealed that participants who consumed fructose or sucralose performed better than the ones who took glucose or sucrose. The human body has the ability to convert sucrose into glucose and fructose. However, unlike glucose, fructose doesn’t traverse the blood-brain barrier.
The ‘Sweet’ Effect:
“Our study suggests that the ‘sugar coma’ – with regards to glucose – is indeed a real phenomenon, where levels of attention seem to decline after consumption of glucose-containing sugar,” Peng told PsyPost.
“While the sample size is relatively small, the effect we observe is substantial,” Peng told the media, “Future research should further quantify how different brain regions change after sugar consumption – by using neuroimaging techniques. This will help us better understand how attention deficits arise after glucose consumption.”
“As food is becoming increasingly diverse, accessible and delicious. It is important to conduct more research in this area to understand food choices and eating behaviors she added.
The study, “The “sweet” effect: Comparative assessments of dietary sugars on cognitive performance“, was co-authored by Rachel Ginieis, Elizabeth A. Franz, and Indrawati Oey.
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