Sweet Tooth Takes Bite Out of Stress

Rat study suggests sugary foods can lower anxiety

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TUESDAY, Nov. 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Find yourself breaking out a bag of cookies when times get stressful? A new study may help explain why.

A team from the University of Cincinnati found that consuming sweet snacks or drinks helped fight anxiety in rats. They theorize that the foods decreased production of the stress-related hormone glucocorticoid, which has also been linked to decreased immune response and increased obesity.

"The sweets we are talking about are not the low-calorie, sugar substitute variety. We actually found that sugar snacks, not artificially sweetened snacks, are better 'self-medications' for the two most common types of stress -- psychological and physical," researcher Yvonne Ulrich-Lai, a postdoctoral fellow in the psychiatry department, said in a prepared statement.

She and her colleagues found that rats that received a sugar drink over two weeks had lower glucocorticoid levels after being given a mental and physical stress challenge than rats who were given an artificially sweetened drink.

The findings were presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in Washington, D.C.

The next step in this research is determining how the sugar drink decreases glucocorticoid production in the rats.

"We need to find out if there are certain parts of the brain that control the response to stress, then determine if the function of these brain regions are changed by sugar snacking," study co-author James Herman, professor and stress neurobiologist, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers tips on how to cope with stress.

SOURCE: University of Cincinnati, news release, Nov. 15, 2005


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