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Can Soda Help Relieve Stress?

Apr 17, 2015 06:35 PM EDT
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It turns out that soda and other sugary drinks may be able to help relieve stress.

That's at least according to a new study, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, which details how drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can suppress the hormone cortisol and stress responses in the brain. However, it should be noted that diet beverages sweetened with aspartame do not have the same effect.

"This is the first evidence that high sugar - but not aspartame - consumption may relieve stress in humans," Kevin D. Laugero, one of the researchers, said in a statement. "The concern is psychological or emotional stress could trigger the habitual overconsumption of sugar and amplify sugar's detrimental health effects, including obesity."

About 35 percent of adults and nearly 17 percent of children nationwide are obese, according to the Society's Endocrine Facts & Figures report, and sugary drinks such as soda and juice are in part to blame, researchers say.

What's more, about half of the US population consumes sugar-sweetened drinks on any given day, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

During the 12-day study, a group of eight and 11 women, aged 18-40, respectively drank aspartame- and sugar -sweetened beverages. The researchers conducted functional MRI screenings to gauge the brain's stress response, and also measured levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, from saliva samples.

They found that women who drank sugar-sweetened beverages during the study had a diminished cortisol response, compared to those who drank aspartame-sweetened beverages.

In addition, the women who drank sugar-sweetened beverages exhibited more activity in the hippocampus - a part of the brain that is usually less active when the body is under stress - than the women who drank aspartame-sweetened beverages.

"The results suggest differences in dietary habits may explain why some people underreact to stressful situations and others overreact," Laugero concluded. "Although it may be tempting to suppress feelings of stress, a normal reaction to stress is important to good health. Research has linked over- and under-reactivity in neural and endocrine stress systems to poor mental and physical health."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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