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Diet Soda Is Bad for Decision Making—Here's What's Good

Study: To improve concentration and make better decisions, your brain needs enough glucose.



Diet Soda Is Bad for Decision Making—Here's What's Good

Can't decide? Feed your brain.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The amount of sugar in your blood could be a key factor in the decisions your brain makes, according to new research. While previous studies have linked blood glucose levels to how we process our thoughts, new research out of the University of South Dakota suggests low glucose levels could be related to lack of self-control and impulsive decision making. The good news is that improving concentration could be as easy as knowing what to eat and drink—and what not to—when it's decision time.

THE DETAILS: Researchers investigated how blood sugar (glucose) levels affect a person's self-control, specifically how people thought about immediate versus future rewards. Participants were asked questions to determine if they would prefer to get a smaller amount of money right away (indicating a lack of self-control) or a larger sum of money later on. Researchers tested blood glucose levels, and asked the questions, before and after the participants drank either a regular sugar-sweetened soda or a sugar-free, artificially sweetened diet soda. The sugar-free soda drinkers were more likely to choose the immediate reward, even though it was less money and not the best overall decision. The results indicate that when people have more energy available—as evidenced by the levels of glucose in their blood—they are more future-oriented. On the other hand, having low energy or low blood glucose levels may make a person focus on the present. In fact, the authors go on to say that artificial sweeteners may signal to the body that there's an imminent caloric crisis, leading to increased impulsivity. If this is true, controlling blood glucose levels could offer a possible intervention for impulsive disorders, anorexia, and drug and gambling addictions. The take-home message for general readers is three-fold, says study author XT Wang, PhD, professor of psychology at University of South Dakota."First blood glucose may strengthen self-control by making future rewards more attractive and reduce impulsivity. Second, our body can detect artificial sweetener in a diet soda and react to this 'energy crisis' by grabbing immediate resources available and discounting delayed rewards," he explains. "Third, carefully regulating blood sugar and avoiding sharp fluctuations might be a means of treatment for a range of impulsive disorders, including addictions."

The study was published this month in the journal Psychological Science.

Filed Under: BRAIN HEALTH

Published on: January 29, 2010



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Interesting article, lousy title

You could have as validly titled this article: "Drink soda laden with corn syrup for better decision making!"

It's good to know that keeping an even keel might help quash impulsive short-term thinking. But shouldn't that have been the lead and the headline?

Headline fail.

I believe the story stated it wasn't about drinking soda or not.

"First off, this study isn't about whether you should drink diet or regular soda before making an important decision."

Diet Soda and Decision Making

This concept makes a lot of sense to me. As someone with 25 years in the healthcare field I have seen and experienced firsthand the effects of both sugar and artificial sweeteners on people. The brain functions solely on pure glucose as it's fuel source, without proper level it cannot function properly. That is why someone who has Blood Sugar issues, whether too high or too low, the first thing it affects is mental status.
The fact that the study used a financial example for the test subjects to make a decision about is merely one example of the many ways that sugar levels may influence decision making. Think about how a person may throw caution to the wind under the influence of alcohol-not only as a result of the alcohol, but due to the fact that it affects blood sugar levels and can cause them to fluctuate wildly.
Diet sodas are a bad idea for our bodies all the way around. They fool our bodies in regard to sugar levels and many have been shown to cause memory problems with continued use.
Try good old fashioned water!!! It's best anyway!

Diet Soda Is Bad for Decision Making—Here's What's Good

I seriously would doubt the testing method.

I don't drink soda diet or not. And I don't think that I show a lack of self control. I believe my finances are relatively sound.

However if someone asks me if I want some money right away or more money later, it depends a lot on the circumstances. If I trust the person enough to give me a bigger amount of money later. The tested subjects might have made bad experiences with promises and rather prefer to have the sparrow in the hand now than the bigger bird in the far future.
Maybe they have better investments that can give them more returns than the bigger amount is or they can pay back a high interest loan that makes them save more money on the interest.

All this does not have to do with drinking soda or not.

glucose

Thanks for your comment. People with diabetes have special challenges managing their blood glucose levels, of course, so you should keep doing what you and your doctor have determined works best for you. That will keep body and brain supplied with the glucose you need. Our sister website, Prevention.com, has lots of information for people living with adult-onset (type 2) diabetes: prevention.com/health/health/health-concerns/diabetes.

Glucose Levels

I read your article with interest. However, I am puzzled because I am diabetic. How does having enough glucose relate to this illness? Thanks.

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