Myth Busting – Is a 'sugar rush' a real thing?

Eating sugary sweets won't make you more active or alert, but you will experience a sudden siesta rush

This old myth goes way back: if you feed your children with something sweet, they will experience a "sugar rush" and will become hyperactive. We're so stuck with this nonsense, that when we feel a bit sleepy, we'll reach for a candy bar or an ice cream. But don't rush for that chocolate just yet, because science has the answer – and it's not sugar.

Candy loophole

If you were to eat a big bag of candy and guzzle a large soda, you might expect to feel a β€œsugar rush” followed by a warm glow of saccharine satisfaction. In reality, the complete 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 the effect on people's mood. They found that sugar does not improve any aspect of your mood and, if anything, it can actually leave you feeling glum.

No! This doesn't happen in real life! Credit: Cabot Health

No! This doesn't happen in real life! Credit: Cabot Health

The idea that sugar can improve your 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. The findings of this wider study very clearly indicate that such claims are not substantiated - if anything, sugar will probably make you feel worse!

What really happens:

The meta-analysis research reviewed 31 different studies, accounting for over 1250 participants, that investigated the effects of soluble carbohydrates, including sugars and starches, on various aspects of mood, including anger, alertness, depression, and fatigue.

Credit: Penn

Credit: Penn

Within just 30 minutes after eating sugar, most people started to experience a sense of tiredness and fatigue, compared to those who took a placebo. One hour after sugar consumption, the majority of people started 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 wellness.

Stress eating

Not only is the idea of a sugar rush a nonsense - the researchers argue, it could also be a factor in the rise of obesity and diabetes. Because we tend to reach for sugar when we're stressed out, we tend to go overboard with our consumption and this factor alone may account for as much as 50% of all diabetes and obesity cases worldwide!

Credit: Hipps Hearts

Credit: Hipps Hearts

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 our human lifespan. The findings of this study indicate that sugary drinks or snacks do not provide a quick "fuel refill" to make us feel happier or more alert. The researchers hope that their findings will go a long way to dispel the mythical "sugar rush" and inform public health policies to decrease sugar consumption.

So instead of reaching for a candy bar and soda, get your hands on some fibre-rich nuts, a yogurt or even Omega-3 rich fish (salmon works best). Those foods would satisfy the needs of your brain for his favourite supplements and in a form of gratitude, you will be rewarded with plenty of Dopamine (the happiness hormone). The science behind the "sugar rush" is clear and conclusive, and this long-standing myth has been...

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Comments (10)

  • I've known for a long time that too much sugar puts me to sleep.

      25 days ago
  • I guess I'm a real life example. πŸ‘Ή I'm prone to hangryness - if I go too long without eating, I become irritable and fuzz-headed. I've learned over the years that a banana or a handful of nuts gets me back to normal as quickly as a cookie... with the added benefit of filling my belly. Cookies and candy work for a short time, but then just make me crave more sugar...

      25 days ago
    • Bananas are rich in potassium - you're feeding your brain and that's why it works 😊 Now I know why sushi works for me, I'm craving for salmon! I would eat small quantities of something sugary right before bed, because it actually helps me to...

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        25 days ago
  • Interesting. I accidentally drank straight cordial after a 22 hour flight - and I was too polite to pour it out, so I persisted with it - and I've often thought that saw me through an hour or so of jet lag. APPARENTLY NOT

      25 days ago
  • There is also caffeine in chocolate and soda which will cause "energetic" feeling the same as drinking coffee, this is why I had to give up soda and chocolate. I have also seen it many times in children including my own son, to much chocolate and soda will cause hyperactive energy for a time and then a sudden crash.

      25 days ago
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