Sugar Water Gargle Boost Self Control

First Posted: Nov 09, 2012 12:31 AM EST

In order to boost your self-control all you need is a mouth rinse with glucose.

According to a study co-authored by University of Georgia professor of psychology Leonard Martin, glucose causes emotive enhancement, leading the person to better achieve his goals.

In order to conduct the study the researchers focused on 51 students who performed two tasks to test self-control. The first task involved crossing out all Es on a page in a statistics book, this was meant to determine depleting self-control.

Later the participants were asked to perform the Stroop task where they were asked to identify the colors of various words that appeared on the screen that actually spelt the name of other colors.

The prime goal here was to force the students to just see the colors and not read the actual words. The students took 3-5 minutes to perform the test. While performing the Stroop test, half of the students rinsed their mouths with lemonade sweetened with sugar while the other half with Splenda-sweetened lemonade.

They noticed that the students, who rinsed with sugar, rather than artificial sweetener, were significantly faster at responding to the color rather than the word.

"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," Martin said. "After this trial, it seems that glucose stimulates the simple carbohydrate sensors on the tongue. This, in turn, signals the motivational centers of the brain where our self-related goals are represented. These signals tell your body to pay attention."

Martin said, "Results show a measure of self-control, but a glucose mouthwash might not be enough to solve some of the biggest self-control obstacles like losing weight or smoking."

"The research is not clear yet on the effects of swishing with glucose on long-term self-control," he said. "So, if you are trying to quit smoking, a swish of lemonade may not be the total cure, but it certainly could help you in the short run."

Martin, in collaboration with co-author Matthew Sanders, a doctoral candidate also in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, suggests that motivation comes in the form of self-values, or emotive investment.

"It is the self-investment," Martin said. "It doesn't just crank up your energy, but it cranks up your personal investment in what you are doing. Clicking into the things that are important to you makes those self-related goals salient."

"The glucose seems to be good at getting you to stop an automatic response such as reading the words in the Stroop task and to substitute the second harder one in its place such as saying the color the word is printed in," he said. "It can enhance emotive investment and self-relevant goals."

Previous self control studies showed a marked difference in performance for the second task.

"Previous studies suggest the first task requires so much energy, you just don't have the energy left for the second task that you need," Martin said. "We are saying when people engage in self-control, they ignore important aspects of their goals and feelings. If you have to stay late at work, for example, but you really want to be going home, you have to ignore your desire to go home. Doing so will help you stay late at work, but it may also put you out of touch with what you personally want and feel on later tasks. Swishing glucose can focus you back on those goals and feelings and this, in turn, can help you perform better on the second task. In short, we believe self-control goes away because people send it away, not because they don't have energy. People turn it off on purpose."

Martin's research focused on the affects of swishing glucose psychologically rather than physiologically. "We think it makes your self-related goals come to mind," he said.

This study was published on Oct 22 in Psychology Science.

See Now: NASA's Juno Spacecraft's Rendezvous With Jupiter's Mammoth Cyclone

©2017 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission. The window to the world of science news.

Join the Conversation

Real Time Analytics