Eating sugary foods probably doesn't result in a sudden energy boost known as a "sugar rush." In fact, eating sweets might make you more tired, according to new research.
A recently published meta-analysis of 31 studies has found that sugar does not have its oft-touted energizing effects. The meta-analysis was conducted by a team of researchers who wanted to better understand what happens to people's moods when they consume sugar. They discovered that sugar didn't really have any positive impact on how people feel or act, regardless of the amount of sugar consumed or what they did after eating it. There was no notable energy boost and no uplift in mood.
In fact, researchers found that consuming sugar seemed to reduce energy levels and increase fatigue. People's alertness lowered within 60 minutes of consuming sugar and their fatigue increased within 30 minutes. So trying to perk up by eating a candy bar or sipping a soda at lunch time is actually counterproductive.
These findings could significantly change cultural perceptions of sugar.
"The myth of the 'sugar rush' has been hugely influential in popular culture, so much so that people still consume large quantities of sugar in an effort to improve their mood and boost their alertness," said the study's lead author Dr. Konstantinos Mantantzis - a psychologist from Berlin's Humboldt University. "We did not necessarily set out to dispel the myth of the sugar rush. We wanted the data and the analyses to speak for themselves."
But it might take some time for that data to drown out misconceptions about sugar. The idea of the sugar rush has been around for a long time. The US army started rationing candy to soldiers as a quick pick-me-up over 100 years ago. And for decades, parents have told their kids not to eat sugar before bed or else they'd have trouble sleeping.
So where did these baseless assumptions about sugar come from? Harvard endocrinologist Dr. Jody Dushay - who was not involved with the study - believes the misconception has to do with the context candy is often given in.
"Maybe you give your kid a bright blue candy that they want, and they're excited and they show that," Dusha told Medium. "It's not so much sugar that makes them hyper, it's the reward."
Recognizing that difference could have a positive impact on society by encouraging people to eat better. Mantantzis and his team hope that by dispelling the myth of the sugar rush, their research will "inform health policies to decrease sugar consumption, and promote healthier alternatives."
So if you've been using the midday slump to justify indulging your sweet tooth, you might want to think twice before dipping into the candy dish.