Sugar does NOT improve our mood

Sugar rush is a myth: Indulging in sweet treats does NOT improve your mood or give you a ‘quick refill’ and may even ‘make you feel worse’

  • Study review of 31 papers found no evidence eating sugar makes us happier
  • Sweet treats even leave us exhausted and less alert an hour later
  • Researchers warn we should not turn to sugary foods for a ‘quick refill’ 
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Whether it’s ice cream to mend a broken heart, or a fizzy drink for a treat, many turn to sugar when we are feeling down or low on energy.

But scientists have now claimed that the resulting ‘sugar rush’ is nothing more than a ‘myth’.

They argue there is no evidence indulging in sweet treats has any effect on mood or sends children into a frenzy. 

A review of 31 research papers found munching on caramel, toffee or fudge even leaves people feeling exhausted and less alert an hour later. 

Researchers have urged people not to turn to sugary snacks as a ‘quick refill’, with the indulgence only ‘making us feel worse’. 

There is no evidence indulging in sweet treats boosts our mood, scientists discover (stock)

The research was carried out by the Humboldt University of Berlin, with help from academics at the universities of Warwick and Lancaster. 

The effect of sugar – and carbohydrates in general – on mood has been widely debated.

People who battle depression or seasonal affective disorder have been known to ‘self medicate’ by upping their sugar intake.

This may be due to studies suggesting sugar encourages the release of feel-good neurotransmitters – the chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells.  

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However, research also implies overindulging in carbohydrates ‘has adverse effects on psychological wellbeing’.  

With sugar consumption on the rise, understanding the link between intake and mood is of ‘high importance’, the authors wrote.

To put this to the test, 31 studies on the subject, with a total of 1,259 participants, were examined.

The results, of the study, led by Dr Konstantinos Mantantzis, revealed that eating carbohydrates has no effect on mood.


The amount of sugar a person should eat in a day depends on how old they are.

Children aged four to six years old should be limited to a maximum of 19 grams per day.

Seven to 10-year-olds should have no more than 24 grams, and children aged 11 and over should have 30g or less.  

Popular snacks contain a surprising amount of sugar and even a single can of Coca Cola (35g of sugar) or one Mars bar (33g) contains more than the maximum amount of sugar a child should have over a whole day.  

A bowl of Frosties contains 24g of sugar, meaning a 10-year-old who has Frosties for breakfast has probably reached their limit for the day before they even leave the house.  

Children who eat too much sugar risk damaging their teeth, putting on fat and becoming overweight, and getting type 2 diabetes which increases the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Source: NHS 

This is true regardless of how much sugar is consumed or the activities people perform afterwards.  

Professor Elizabeth Maylor, from the University of Warwick and author on the study, said: ‘We hope our findings will go a long way to dispel the myth of the “sugar rush”.’ 

‘The idea that sugar can improve mood has been widely influential in popular culture,’ Dr Mantantzis said.

She added that because of the myth ‘people all over the world consume sugary drinks to become more alert or combat fatigue’.

‘Our findings very clearly indicate that such claims are not substantiated – if anything, sugar will probably make you feel worse,’ Dr Mantantzis said.

The researchers believe these results are important given the ever-expanding waistlines, driven by the over-consumption of sugar.  

Study author Dr Sandra Sünram-Lea, a senior lecturer in psychology at Lancaster University, added: ‘The rise in obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome in recent years highlights the need for evidence-based dietary strategies to promote healthy lifestyle across the lifespan. 

‘Our findings indicate sugary drinks or snacks do not provide a quick “fuel refill” to make us feel more alert.’

The study was published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

The researchers wrote that fizzy drink consumption alone has risen by 135 per cent in the US from the early 1970s to 2000s.

Soft drinks now make up seven per cent of the average person’s daily energy intake and are the largest single source of calories in our diet. 

The scientists believe soda marketing that promotes the soft drinks as being a way of ‘combating fatigue, increasing energy and promoting a euphoric feeling’ is to blame. 

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