Gargling Sugar Water Increases Self-Control

Sugar-swilling test subjects performed tasks better

Sugar has had a lot of bad press lately, but a new study indicates that rinsing one’s mouth with sugar water improves a person’s focus and self-control. Sure, gargling sugar water hardly seems like the sort of thing you’d expect from a paragon of self-control, but one never sees a lazy hummingbird.

According to, the University of Georgia had students demonstrate self-control by making them do mind-numbing tasks. First they had to cross out the letter E wherever it appeared on a page from a statistics book. As if that weren’t enough, they then had to identify the color of words that flashed on a screen, but the words spelled out the names of other colors. (It’s harder than it sounds.)

Before performing their trials, the students gargled lemonade. Half the students got lemonade with real sugar; the rest swished lemonade made with Splenda. According to the study, the students with the sugary lemonade were “significantly faster” at their tasks than the students in the Splenda group.

"After this trial, it seems that glucose stimulates the simple carbohydrate sensors on the tongue,” said psychology professor Leonard Martin. "This, in turn, signals the motivational centers of the brain where our self-related goals are represented."

Martin says gargling the sugar water helps people focus and strengthens their resolve to do something irksome, which he said could possibly even help people trying to lose weight or quit smoking.

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“It’s the self-investment,” he said. “It doesn’t just crank up your energy, but it cranks up your personal investment in what you are doing.”