7-Up can calm you down. New research suggesting that chugging sugary drinks reduces stress gives some clues as to why they’re so hard to quit.
Drinking sugary beverages can suppress the hormone cortisol and stress responses in the brain. Diet soda? Not so much, according to the study, published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and noted on sciencedaily.com.
"This is the first evidence that high sugar -- but not aspartame -- consumption may relieve stress in humans," one of the study's authors, Kevin D. Laugero, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, said in an Endocrine Society release. "The concern is psychological or emotional stress could trigger the habitual overconsumption of sugar and amplify sugar's detrimental health effects, including obesity."
The study included 19 women between the ages of 18 and 40. For the trial, some consumed aspartame-sweetened beverages while others drank sugar-sweetened beverages three times a day for 12 days. Before and after the 12 days, the women took math tests and then had MRIs to measure the brain’s stress response. Researchers also measured cortisol levels in their saliva.
The women who drank sugar-sweetened beverages during the study had a diminished cortisol response to the math test, compared to women who drank the aspartame-sweetened stuff. In addition, the women who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages exhibited more activity in the hippocampus -- a part of the brain that is involved in memory and is sensitive to stress -- than the women who drank aspartame-sweetened beverages.
The research reveals new clues to how sugar positively reinforces the temptation to eat comfort food when a person is stressed, Laugero said.