The next time you feel rage boiling up inside you, eat a chocolate bar. Or have a lollipop. It may just stop that desire to smash something.
Researchers in the United States have found that consuming a spoonful of sugar can curb aggression, at least for a short time.
"Avoiding aggressive impulses takes self-control, and self-control takes a lot of energy. Glucose provides that energy in the brain," Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University said in a release.
The study, published in the online journal Aggressive Behavior, found that people who drank a glass of lemonade sweetened with sugar acted less aggressively toward a stranger a few minutes later than did people who consumed lemonade with a sugar substitute.
Both were surely delicious, but only one had a significant soothing effect.
"Drinking sweetened lemonade helped provide the short-term energy needed to avoid lashing out at others," Prof. Bushman said.
The study, conducted by Prof. Bushman and colleagues from the University of Kentucky and SUNY-Albany, looked at 62 college students who fasted for three hours, enough time to reduce glucose instability. Half were given sweetened lemonade and half were given lemonade with a sugar substitute.
They were then told they would participate in a reaction test with an unseen partner, and whoever was slowest at pressing a button would receive a blast of white noise through headphones.
To measure just how much students wished to punish their partners, they were allowed to set the level of noise they would receive if they were slower, on a scale of 1 to 10.
Study participants who drank lemonade sweetened with sugar chose a noise level averaging 4.8 out of 10, while those with the sugar substitute averaged 6.06.
"To our knowledge, this is the first study to find that boosting glucose levels can reduce actual aggressive behaviour," Prof. Bushman said.
So are candy bars the key to a world filled with peace and joy? It doesn't seem so.
"To be sure, consuming sugar should not be considered a panacea for curbing aggression," Prof. Bushman said. "But the results do suggest that people who reportedly 'snap' with aggression may need some way to boost their mental energy, so they can override their aggressive impulses."
Prof. Bushman then went so far as to suggest that since the number of people with diabetes is on the rise, and therefore there are more people who have trouble metabolizing glucose, the world is becoming a more aggressive place and that eating sugar, and processing it properly, could have us all joining hands to sing Kumbaya.
"Diabetes may not only harm yourself - it is bad for society," he said. "The healthy metabolism of glucose may contribute to a more peaceful society by providing people with a higher level of energy for self-control."
Hey, don't get angry at me. I'm just the messenger. Eat some sugar and give me a hug.