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Gargling lemonade boosts self-control, study shows

Many of us wish we could have a little more self-control, such as those trying to curb their snacking or smoking intake. A new study suggests gargling lemonade might do the trick -- for a little while.

The study, published online Oct. 22 in Psychological Science, found gargling a sugary beverage increased participants' performance on tasks that measures short-term self-control.

For the small study, researchers at the University of Georgia enlisted 51 students and gave them two self-control tests.

The first test asked students to meticulously cross out the letter "E" from a page of statistics, a task which has been shown to deplete one's self control.

Then they were given a "Stroop" test, in which words that spelled out the name of colors were shown in different colors. Participants are asked to tell the tester which color is on the screen. However people are more prone to read the word, thus saying the color correctly would reflect a measure self-control.

Before the Stroop test, half the students were asked to rinse their mouths with sugary lemonade, while the other half used Splenda-sweetened lemonade. The researchers found those who swigged with the sugary drink were much faster at correctly stating the color instead of the word.

However the researchers emphasize the test only measured short-term self-control.

"The research is not clear yet on the effects of swishing with glucose on long-term self-control," study author Dr. Leonard Martin, a professor of psychology at UGA, said in a press release. "So, if you are trying to quit smoking, a swish of lemonade may not be the total cure, but it certainly could help you in the short run."

Martin said because people didn't need to consume the drink, the trial suggests sugar stimulates carbohydrate sensors found in the tongue, which signal the motivational centers of the brain to "tell your body to pay attention." That stops the automatic response, which in this case was reading the words on a screen.

"It is the self-investment," Martin said. "It doesn't just crank up your energy, but it cranks up your personal investment in what you are doing. Clicking into the things that are important to you makes those self-related goals salient."

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