Washington: Do you always pick up a soda can from the refrigerator every time you feel a little stressed? This could be because sugary drinks may relieve stress in humans by disrupting the body’s normal response to stressful situations.
“Although it may be tempting to suppress feelings of stress, a normal reaction to stress is important to good health,” explained one of the study’s authors Kevin Laugero from the University of California, Davis.
Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can suppress the hormone cortisol and stress responses in the brain, but diet beverages sweetened with the artificial sweetner aspartame do not have the same effect, the findings showed.
“This is the first evidence that high sugar – but not aspartame – consumption may relieve stress in humans,” Laugero noted.
“The concern is psychological or emotional stress could trigger the habitual overconsumption of sugar and amplify sugar’s detrimental health effects, including obesity,” Laugero said.
Overconsumption of sugary drinks such as soda and juice have been linked to the obesity epidemic and several other health risks.
The study examined the effects of consuming sugar and aspartame-sweetened beverages on a group of 19 women between the ages of 18 and 40.
The researchers assigned eight women to consume aspartame-sweetened beverages, and 11 to drink sugar-sweetened beverages for a 12-day period and assessed their performance in a maths test.
Women who drank sugar-sweetened beverages during the study had a diminished cortisol response to the math test, compared to women who were assigned to consume aspartame-sweetened beverages.
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 study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.