Swishing sugary drink can boost brain and willpower

By Shayna Brouker • Published: January 28th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Need a quick hit of sugar to get you through that mid-afternoon meeting or help you decipher that budget report? Maybe you need some extra iron will just to resist having one more chocolate chip cookie? Simply take a swig of sugary soda, swish it around in your mouth … then spit it out. A new study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin says that’s all it takes to boost self-control and willpower.

It takes a lot of energy to control impulses, and just like a muscle, willpower can get worn out. The brain relies on glucose to stay sharp and engaged, but can just a taste do the trick? Researchers at Curtin University in Western Australia wanted to know. So they had two groups of people swish either a sugary or artificially sweetened drink, then perform a tedious task like a word puzzle.

Those who swished the sugary stuff performed better in all tasks compared with those who sipped the fake confection. Sugar can have a placebo effect on the brain and trick it into thinking it’s actually getting glucose, much like just smelling coffee can make you feel more alert. To put this finding into practice, try swishing some soda to get the juices flowing. Alternately, you can pop a piece of gum or candy … but then you’d ingest sugar. And if you overdo it on sugar, it can have the opposite effect and impair memory.

Another way to boost brain activity is to start the day right with breakfast. Studies show that eating breakfast could improve short-term memory and attention. Furthermore, students who eat breakfast tend to perform significantly better than those who don’t. Now that’s a smart choice. Blueberries, avocados and salmon are known to boost brainpower. Also, avoid overeating. Food comas are a surefire concentration killer.