Need a Jolt of Self-Motivation? Gargle With Sugar Water!

In an admittedly small study, a group of students was asked to perform highly repetitive tasks (crossing out the letter “e” in a statistics book, correctly noting the color of a word spelled in another color, etc.).  Some of the students rinsed their mouths with sugar-sweetened lemonade during the tests while others rinsed their mouths with artificially sweetened lemonade.  Those who gargled with the sugared sample were “significantly faster” in their tasks.

This seems to de-bunk the idea that you had to actually consume glucose to gain any kind of metabolic advantage. “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,” said coauthor Leonard Martin, professor of psychology. “After this trial, it seems that glucose stimulates the simple carbohydrate sensors on the tongue.”

This study from the University of Georgia involved only 51 students but it certainly provokes some interesting thinking about what might be a simple way to improve our own ability to “stick to it” when confronted with projects that can sap motivation at times.  “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 appears in the journal Psychological Science.


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