Can sugar really put you in a better mood?

Find out if ‘sugar rushes’ are real and how to fight sugar addiction to better manage your diabetes.

Can sugar really put you in a better mood?

Do we really experience ‘sugar rushes’?

Your brain doesn’t recognise sugar. It recognises dopamine: something associated with ‘pleasure’ – a reward from your brain to your body. Dopamine release is strongly associated with addictions, like narcotics or tobacco products. Sugar triggers the release of dopamine, just like those items. Because of this, it’s considered a highly addictive substance in many countries.

You know the feeling: you snap your favourite chocolate bar between your teeth and wait for the ‘high’ to begin. You think it’s the sugar rush you need, but soon after biting into that chocolatey goodness, you start to feel worse than beforehand. The steep decline of our energy is what creates the illusion that we were ever receiving a boost. Sugar is actually responsible for fatigue, reduced alertness and lack of concentration.

Busting the sugar rush myth

Universities in Warwick, Berlin and Lancaster collected data across 31 published studies. All found that sugar has no direct positive impact on mood. Instead, all converged upon similar findings that sugar induces fatigue and concentration issues 30-60 minutes after consumption. Quantities and types of sugars were tested across several of the studies. It was found that only the amount of time varied, until energy depletion became evident in participants. These studies propose that the ‘sugar rush’ is a myth, a placebo-effect of conscious sugar intake.

The placebo effect

Placebos are a delicate subject in the medical world. Some doctors support the use of these, while others strongly advise against it because they believe it enables bad habits or dependencies. A placebo is considered a mental illusion. The most common use for one is when a patient has convinced himself/herself that a dose of medicine is required in order to produce a particular result.

The convincing happens through a deep-rooted mental or emotional phenomenon, and it’s almost impossible to reason with someone so placebos are used. It’s like a little cheat, that gives a patient something like a Vitamin C tablet instead of the Schedule 5 painkiller he/she believes is needed in order to feel better. Because the mind is satisfied that the appropriate remedy was applied, the anxieties associated with not receiving it are completely removed. Rehabilitation centres often use placebos when weaning patients off of other addictive substances.

Sugar is considered just the same as other addictive substances. For Diabetics, coping with sugar addiction can be a huge uphill battle. Because of the mental stance on what sugary products do for the body, Diabetics can get caught in a downward spiral of choosing the wrong items to depend on for quick boosts of energy. It happens often based on the assumption that a ‘sugar rush’ is needed. Basically, you create your own mental illusion that without consuming sugar, you won’t be able to endure the next hour or two of your day.

Understand more about Diabetes and how to live a happy, healthy life as a Diabetic.

Leave your details below to get more lifestyle tips, updates on medical research, and other resources to help you and your family live a healthy happy life in the presence of Diabetes.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Overcoming cravings

The placebo effect, like all craving situations, can be dangerous. It creates a false dependency on harmful sugars that lead to Diabetes to begin with. To overcome it, the first thing you need to do is notice when you crave something sweet or starchy. Once you identify that feeling, you can question your appetite thoroughly.

Think about when last you ate something, and whether it was low GI. Try to confront your craving by questioning whether you’re just thirsty. It’s always highly recommended that Diabetics carry a suitable water bottle with them throughout the day.

Set yourself a series of steps to go through, like a checklist. It will create hurdles for your mind to overcome, and make it harder to come up with excuses. Each step in the process will help you reason with the thoughts that are trying to control your actions toward consuming more sugar.

Spread the word!

Part of defeating Diabetes is sharing the information you learn. We encourage you to share this article with your loved ones, especially with those battling Diabetes. If we can make an effort to talk about important things like this with our friends and families, we can improve everyone’s health together.


Mantantzis, K, Schlaghecken, F, Sünram-Lea, SI, and Maylor, EA. 2019. The ‘sugar rush’ myth: it actually lowers alertness and increases fatigue. Medical Brief. 10 April. Available at: [Accessed 6 August 2019].

South African Medical Research Council. 2017. Obesity and diabetes in Africa on the rise. 5 June. Available at: [Accessed 6 August 2019].

We all have questions.

Below are some of the answers to the most common questions that you need to know.

Which is worse – Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?

“Worse” is a harsh comparison. The difference between these two types of Diabetes is that Type 1 requires insulin, and it never goes away. Type 2 requires consistent effort and can be managed over your lifetime.

What is the normal HbA1C level?

It is generally accepted that you should maintain HbA1C below 8%. The following guidelines are suggested by the South African Diabetes Association:


  • 4 – 6% Non-Diabetic range. 
  • < 7% Well-controlled Diabetic 7% – 8% Acceptable Diabetic control > 8% 
  • Poor Diabetic control needs attention.

What is the main cause of Diabetes?

Diabetes (Type 1) is usually a predisposed or genetically inherited condition. Diabetes (Type 2) is caused by lifestyle choices. Gestational Diabetes can be caused by either genetics or lifestyle choices.

What are the first signs of Diabetes?

  • Excessive thirst over a prolonged period.
  • Increased frequency in the need to urinate.
  • Significant weight loss or gain.
  • You find yourself fatigued, tired, and irritable, on a regular basis.
  • Open or ruptured wounds take a long time to heal.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Tingling sensations in your hands and feet.

Can you get life insurance if you have Diabetes?

Yes. AllLife can help you get up to R10million life insurance, as either a Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetic.

Can I test myself for Diabetes?

Although you can easily test your own blood glucose levels at any time, only your doctor, nurse, or clinic team can confirm a Diabetes diagnosis. This is because a series of specific tests are required for diagnosis.

Related articles

The 9 effects of alcohol and 7 helpful guidelines for you.

The 9 effects of alcohol and 7 helpful guidelines for you

Diabetes and alcohol consumption do’s and dont’s.

Important food groups to help control your diabetes and what to avoid. Compare the recommended diets and decide what works for you.

Diabetic Diet: What foods to eat and avoid

Compare the recommended diets and decide what works for you.

Four simple tips to help you cope with anxiety as a Diabetic.

Four simple tips to help you cope with anxiety as a Diabetic

Here are a few few tips to keep anxiety levels low.