For those smokers desperate to give up the habit, scientists have an unusual solution…gargling with a glass of lemonade.
They found that the interaction of sugar (known as glucose) on the tongue boosts attention as well as energy and can improve self control.
This could help keep smokers away from the cigarettes at least in the short-term. A team from the University of Georgia conducted self-control tasks on 51 students to see if a mouth rinse with glucose boosts attention as well as energy.
The first task, which depletes self-control, was to meticulously cross out Es on a page from a statistics book.
The second was the Stroop task, where participants were asked to identify the colour of various words flashed on a screen, which spell out the names of other colours.
The Stroop task’s goal is to turn off the student’s tendency to read the words and instead see the colours.
Half the students rinsed their mouths with lemonade sweetened with sugar while performing the Stroop test, and the other half with Splenda-sweetened lemonade.
Results showed students who rinsed with sugar, rather than artificial sweetener, were significantly faster at responding to the colour rather than the word.
Professor Leonard Martin, of the University of Georgia, said: ‘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.
‘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.’
It took participants about three to five minutes to perform the Stroop test, which shows a measure of self-control, but glucose mouthwash might not be enough to solve some of the biggest self-control obstacles like losing weight or smoking.
Professor Martin said: ‘The research is not clear yet on the effects of swishing with glucose on long-term self-control.
‘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.’
Professor Martin, along with co-author Matthew Sanders, a doctoral candidate, believes the motivation comes in the form of self-values, or emotive investment.
He said: ‘It is the self-investment. 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 colour the word is printed in.
‘It can enhance emotive investment and self-relevant goals.’
The study, published in journal Psychological Science, says previous research into self-control has shown a decline in performance for the second task as energy levels plummet.
‘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.’
by Susan Floyd