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Sugary Sodas Suppress the Stress

Jul. 8, 2015|643 views
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Even though they know that sugar-sweetened sodas are bad for their health, many people find it difficult to break the soda habit. Now there’s a newly identified reason why breaking up with soda can be so hard to do. According to new research published by the Endocrine Society, drinking sugary sodas lowers levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, while lowering the brain’s stress responses. In contrast, diet soda sweetened with the artificial sweetener, aspartame, did not have this effect.

"This is the first evidence that high sugar -- but not aspartame -- consumption may relieve stress in humans," said one of the study's authors, Kevin D. Laugero, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. "The concern is psychological or emotional stress could trigger the habitual overconsumption of sugar and amplify sugar's detrimental health effects, including obesity."

That’s a devilish catch-22: drinking soda relieves stress, while engendering obesity and other conditions, which, in turn, create stress that a person tries to relieve by drinking more soda…

About half of the United States population drinks at least one of these sugar-laced beverages on any given day. About one-third of adults, and nearly one-fifth of children, are obese. Drinking sugary beverages has been linked to the development of overweight and obesity. For the first time, researchers at UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center's Clinical Research Center studied the brains and brain chemicals involved in stress among female subjects who drank either diet or regular sodas.

The women were put under experimental stress by performing a complex math test. Women who had been drinking sugary sodas experienced less psychological stress than women who had been consuming artificially sweetened soda. Since stress diminishes the brain’s ability to focus and perform complex tasks, the sugar-fueled women even performed better. All of which suggests there’s a biological reason that sugary beverages are so hard to quit.

"The results suggest differences in dietary habits may explain why some people underreact to stressful situations and others overreact," he said. "Although it may be tempting to suppress feelings of stress, a normal reaction to stress is important to good health. Research has linked over- and under-reactivity in neural and endocrine stress systems to poor mental and physical health,” said investigator Kevin D. Laugero, PhD.

Matthew S. Tryon, Kimber L. Stanhope, Elissa S. Epel, Ashley E. Mason, Rashida Brown, Valentina Medici, Peter J. Havel, Kevin D. Laugero. Excessive Sugar Consumption May Be a Difficult Habit to Break: A View From the Brain and Body. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2015; jc.2014-4353 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2014-4353  


Tags:  diabetes, chemicals beware, diet soda, obesity