Self-control need a boost? Gargle sugar water: Researchers

(Elena Elisseeva/shutterstock.com)

(Elena Elisseeva/shutterstock.com)

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, Last Updated: 12:53 PM ET

A new study finds that you can give your self-control a boost simply by gargling sugar water.

A research team from the University of Georgia in the US enlisted 51 students to perform two tasks of self control. The first involved students meticulously crossing out the letter E on a page from a statistics book. Then subjects endured another tedious task: they were asked to identify the color of various words that flashed on a screen, with the words spelling out the names of other colors.

Half of the students rinse their mouths with lemonade sweetened with sugar for three to five minutes while performing the tests, while the other half rinsed with lemonade made with the artificial sweetener Splenda. Turned out, the students who gargled with sugar were "significantly faster" in their responses than the Splenda group.

Glucose boost

"Researchers used to think you had to drink the glucose and get it into your body to give you the energy to [have] self control," says coauthor Leonard Martin, professor of psychology. "After this trial, it seems that glucose stimulates the simple carbohydrate sensors on the tongue." He adds: "This, in turn, signals the motivational centers of the brain where our self-related goals are represented." And it's these signals, he adds, that wake your body up and tell it to start paying attention.

Have to work late when you'd rather be heading home? Martin suggests gargling a bit of sugar water may not only help you focus better on the task at hand but help strengthen your resolve to do something you'd rather not be doing. "It is the self-investment," Martin adds. "It doesn't just crank up your energy, but it cranks up your personal investment in what you are doing."

Martin suggested that while more research needs to be done, gargling with sugar water might even aid those trying to lose weight or stop smoking, at least in the short run.

The study, announced Wednesday, appears in the journal Psychological Science.
http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/10/19/0956797612450034


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