Sugar and Self Control

Here’s a brain twister for you… a study shows that consumption of sugar helps improve self-control… self control for everything but sugar I’d guess.

The control group drank lemonade with Splenda, a sugar-free sweetener; the test group got lemonade sweetened with real sugar. The sugar group performed better than the Splenda group on their second [self-control] test, presumably because their blood sugar had been replenished.

Splenda?! Maybe Splenda just makes you stupid. Anyway, I’m not sure if the scientists are confusing self-control with just anything that makes your brain burn off a bit of fuel…

The researchers measured the blood glucose levels of participants before either engaging in another self-control task or a task that did not involve self-control. They found that the group performing the self-control task suffered depletion in glucose afterward.

This was the self-control task:

The Stroop task [is]  a famous way of testing strength of self-control. Participants in this task are shown color words that are printed in different-colored ink (like the word red printed in blue font), and are told to name the color of the ink, not the word.

I’ve done this test (here – knock yourself out) and I can tell you it hurts the head and bears no resemblance to what the average punter would call self-control. Maybe the key is mis-labling. Write “cat food” on that box of cookies.

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One thought on “Sugar and Self Control

  1. You did a pretty good job of tearing that apart. I’d only add three things:

    1. Who the hell funded that study? The Sugar Manufacturers of America? And, given that the article you cited doesn’t mention funding, why the hell doesn’t the average journalist ever think to ask who paid for the research?

    2. I wonder how the test results would have gone if they’d tested the participants every 30 minutes for 5 hours. I’m sure they would’ve noted some very interesting declines in the sugar group.

    3. Splenda, indeed. A much more interesting test would be to compare the reactions of people consuming carbohydrate vs. fat, preferably a fat that is easily burned for energy, like medium-chain fatty acids or ALA.

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