A new study has revealed that drinking beverages sweetened with sugar is more effective at lowering stress levels in the body than drinks with artificial sweeteners.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, discovered that levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased in women after two weeks of drinking sucrose, commonly known as table sugar. They were then asked to answer a set of math challenges, by which the researchers found that the levels of cortisol in their bodies were lower, compared with women who were asked to drink the artificial sweetener aspartame.
The participants stayed at the University of California, Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center's Clinical Research Center throughout the study, where they underwent a psychological stress test and functional MRI screenings demonstrating the brain's ability to respond to stress. Saliva samples were also collected to monitor the levels of cortisol in their bodies.
"This is the first mechanistic evidence that high sugar – but not aspartame – consumption may relieve stress in humans," said Dr. Kevin Laugero, a researcher from University of California, Davis' Department of Nutrition and one of the authors of the study.
"The concern is psychological or emotional stress could trigger the habitual overconsumption of sugar and amplify sugar's detrimental health effects, including obesity," he said.
Laugero added that the results of the study point to the differences in diet as possible reasons why some people overreact during stressful situations. Too much dependence on sugar, however, may abnormally dull the body's ability to react to stress. Studies have established a connection between over- and under-reactivity to stress systems and poor mental and physical health.
Chronic stress disorder is a growing concern among Americans, which experts consider a reason for people consuming large amounts of sugar.
In 2014, the American Institute of Stress announced that 77 percent of Americans claim they regularly experience symptoms caused by stress.
The AIS report stated that poor nutrition is the leading cause of stress. It happens when a person consumes too much caffeine, processed foods or refined sugars, all of which contribute to an insufficient diet. Experts warn that people should not depend too much on sugar to relieve stress.
This study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
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