334 Sugar & Attention


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334-361 Sugar & Attention

Research by Giles, Grace E., Avanzato, Benjamin F., Mora, Belén, Jurdak, Nicole A. and Kanarek, Robin B. (2018).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S.

Can sugar help your attention or memory? What if you thought you were consuming sugar but really weren’t?

Many avoid soda because of health. Others drink soda to enhance their brain performance while studying or to feel energized.  Research on how sugar affects brain functioning is still inconsistent. Tufts University research psychologists evaluated how high-fructose corn syrup affects cognition, attention and mood. They compared 4 groups totaling 105 participants.  Two Groups drank soda with sugar. Group 1 knew it, Group 2 was told it was artificial sweetener, not sugar. Group 3 and 4 drank soda with artificial sweetener, Group 3 was told it was artificial sweetener. Group 4, told it was sugar. Afterwards, they gave cognitive tasks and mood questionnaires to all groups.

Only participants that consumed sugar showed an increase in sustained attention. Individuals who thought they were drinking soda with sugar when they were not reported feeling more tension than the other groups. This may be due to their negative perceptions of drinking an unhealthy drink. None of the groups improved their performance on any of the memory tasks.

So, drinking sugary soda, may enable you to study longer but it will not help you remember it!


Giles, Grace E., Avanzato, Benjamin F., Mora, Belén, Jurdak, Nicole A. and Kanarek, Robin B. (2018). Sugar Intake and Expectation Effects on Cognition and Mood. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 26(3), 302–309.


About Author

Adele Hall is the administrative assistant for the School of Psychology in charge of uploading the Psychology Science minutes. The authors of the minutes are listed in the written portion. The Psychology Science Minutes are coordinated by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D., faculty emerita, and reviewed by former Dean Mary Beth Kenkel, faculty emerita.

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