Good news, candy lovers… indulging your sweet tooth may keep you smiling.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have shown sugar helps rats cope with difficult situations, by cutting production of stress hormones.
The study, described at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, also showed the artificial sweetener saccharine provided some stress relief, though not as much as sugar.
Adult male rats used in the study were fed a standard diet, supplemented with a special beverage twice a day.
Actually, for one group the beverage wasn’t that special… plain water. Another group drank water mixed with saccharine and the third got water plus sucrose, a type of sugar.
After two weeks of this regimen, the rats were subjected to twenty minutes of stress. Some were restrained from moving, a form of psychological stress. Others were kept in a low-oxygen atmosphere and experienced physical stress.
The researchers drew blood samples from the rats and checked for the presence of two stress hormones, corticosterone (korr-tih-KOST-urr-own) and A-C-T-H.
The rats that only drank water were used to establish baseline levels of the chemicals.
For psychologically stressed rats, sucrose reduced production of both hormones, but saccharine only reduced A-C-T-H. For the rodents that were physically stressed, sucrose decreased corticosterone levels and saccharine didn’t affect either one.
Of course, scientists haven’t confirmed that sugar affects people the same way it does rats. But have you ever seen someone act MORE stressed-out after digging into a bag of caramel corn?