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Debunking the Myth of the ‘Sugar High’


Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- Sugar may not be the most nutritious food around, but a recent Duke University Medical Center study says it's also gotten an undeserved bad rap.

Chances are, most people can remember their mothers warning – don't eat too much candy or other sweets or else you'll get hyperactive, start bouncing off the walls and generally act wild from all that sugar. It turns out that, at least this once, Mom was mistaken.

Richard Surwit, Ph.D., chief of medical psychology at Duke University Medical Center, studied sugar's effects on volunteers in a weight-loss program. Not only did subjects lose equal weight on calorie-controlled high-sugar and no-sugar diets, he found no negative side effects.

"Nobody reported any behavioral problems, any mood swings, any anxiety, any hyper-kinetic kind of behavior," Surwit says. "Not only that, the sugar didn't make people diabetic, it didn't raise their blood sugar and it didn't raise their triglycerides."

Surwit says the misconceptions about the notorious "sugar high" probably come from treats containing stimulants such as the caffeine in chocolate. And where did this myth come from?

"During World War II, the government, as part of the war effort, spread the propaganda that sugar was bad for you, because sugar was one of the nutrients that was rationed pretty closely," says Surwit. "In order to keep people from eating it, they spread this as part of their propaganda. Then, after the war was over, it just stuck."

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