Why There’s No Such Thing as a “Sugar Rush”

New research says you shouldn't expect a rush when you eat sugar. In fact, you will probably crash instead.

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If you have a habit of reaching for a handful of chocolate candies or sipping a sugary soda every time you need an energy boost, you may be doing more harm than help, says a new study published in the journal Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews.

Researchers from universities in Germany and the UK combined results from 31 previously published studies on sugar and energy that involved almost 1300 people. Using the data, the researchers analyzed the short-term effects of consuming carbohydrates—sugar—on mood, fatigue, alertness, depression, calmness, tension, and confusion. At the same time, they investigated whether the quantity or type of sugar could help with mental or physical activities.

Their findings: The sugar rush isn’t real. Eating simple carbohydrates like candy had no effect on the volunteer’s mood, regardless of how much they ate. What’s more, people who eat sugar for the expected boost are more likely to feel sluggish or tired afterward. And those are just a few of the scary things sugar does to your body.

“The idea that sugar can improve 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,” said lead author Dr. Konstantinos Mantantzis from Humboldt University of Berlin in a statement. “Our findings very clearly indicate that such claims are not substantiated—if anything, sugar will probably make you feel worse.”

The researchers hope this news will help consumers reconsider their sugar intake. “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 the lifespan,” says Dr. Sandra Sünram-Lea from Lancaster University. “Our findings indicate that sugary drinks or snacks do not provide a quick ‘fuel refill’ to make us feel more alert.” And just look at all the beneficial changes that happen to your body when you stop eating sugar.

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Kimberly Holland
Kimberly Holland is a lifestyle writer and editor based in Birmingham, Alabama. When not organizing her books by color, Holland enjoys toying with new kitchen gadgets and feeding her friends all her cooking experiments.