For several decades, researchers have been examining the positive impact glucose has in relation to neurocognitive performance. And they have found that a small sugary treat can boost memory and performance when faced with a difficult task in older adults and makes them feel happier during a task.
A long-standing body of research has been bolstered by this new study from the University of Warwick– published in the journal Psychology and Aging — has concluded that sugar does indeed improve memory and motivation in older adults.
The researchers gave young (aged 18-27) and older (aged 65-82) participants a drink containing a small amount of glucose and got them to perform various memory tasks while other participants were given a placebo, a drink containing artificial sweetener.
The study involved about 50 young adults. They then measured participants’ levels of engagement with the task, their memory score, mood, and their own perception of effort.
The subjects were all given either a drink containing either a small amount of glucose or an artificial sweetener. After performing an assortment of memory tasks, the subjects’ engagement was measured by following changes in heart rate and self-reported efforts.
Interestingly, despite both the old and young glucose groups showing increased engagement, relative to the placebo group, only the older glucose group showed an improvement in memory performance.
So, the younger subjects may have been a little hyped up by the glucose, but it didn’t actually improve their performance on the memory tasks.
However, older adults who had a glucose drink showed significantly better memory and more positive mood compared to older adults who consumed the artificial sweetener.
The researchers hypothesize that an increase in blood sugar levels most likely resulted in a short-term boost of energy that enhanced the older subjects’ motivation to perform the task. This active engagement with the task is what the researchers suggest is behind the improved cognitive effects.
“Over the years, studies have shown that actively engaging with difficult cognitive tasks is a prerequisite for the maintenance of cognitive health in older age,” says Konstantinos Mantantzis, a PhD student working on the project.
“Therefore, the implications of uncovering the mechanisms that determine older adults’ levels of engagement cannot be understated.”
The researchers noted that it is still unclear exactly how energy availability affects cognitive engagement, so this study doesn’t suggest sugar being included in specific dietary guidelines for senior citizens.
With Agency Inputs
Suicide can’t be predicted by asking about suicidal thoughts : Study
Most people who died of suicide deny they experience suicidal thoughts when asked by doctors in the weeks and months leading up to their death, a major Australian study has found.
The findings, co-authored by clinical psychiatrist and Professor Matthew Large from UNSW’s School of Psychiatry, Sydney that published in the journal BJPsych Open The meta-analysis challenge the widely-held assumption that psychiatrists can predict who will suicide by asking if they are preoccupied with thoughts of killing themselves.
The study showed that 80% of patients who were not undergoing psychiatric treatment and who died of suicide reported not to have suicidal thoughts when asked by their psychiatrist or GP.
“If you meet someone who has suicidal ideation there is a 98 per cent chance that they are not going to suicide,” said Professor Large, an international expert on suicide risk assessment who also works in the emergency department of a major Sydney hospital.
“But what we didn’t know was how frequently people who go on to suicide have denied having suicidal thoughts when asked directly,” he added.
“This study proves we can no longer ration psychiatric care based on the presence of suicidal thoughts alone. We need to provide high-quality, patient-centred care for everyone experiencing mental illness, whether or not they reveal they are experiencing suicidal thoughts,” Professor Large said.
About one in 10 people will have suicidal ideation in their lifetime. But the study showed suicidal ideation alone was not rational grounds for deciding who gets treatment and who does not, Professor Large said.
“We know that suicide feeling is pretty common and that suicide is actually a rare event, even among people with severe mental illness,” Professor Large added.
Suicidal ideation tells us an awful lot about how a person is feeling, their psychological distress, sometimes their diagnosis and their need for treatment but it’s not a meaningful test of future behaviour.
Suicidal feelings can fluctuate rapidly and people may suicide very impulsively after only a short period of suicidal thoughts.
But, people had good reasons not to disclose thoughts of suicide, fearing stigma, triggering over-reactions or upsetting family and friends, and being involuntarily admitted for psychiatric treatment, Professor Large said.
Professor Large emphasized that clinicians should not assume that patients experiencing mental distress without reporting suicidal ideas were not at elevated risk of suicide.