Turns out, increasing blood sugar levels improves memory and performance in older adults and makes them feel happier during a task.
A study conducted at the University of Warwick found that sugar improves memory in older adults and makes them more motivated to perform difficult tasks at full capacity.
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. Other participants were given a placebo, a drink containing artificial sweetener. They then measured participants' levels of engagement with the task, their memory score, mood, and their own perception of effort.
They founded that increasing energy through a glucose drink can help both young and older adults to try harder compared to those who had the artificial sweetener. For young adults glucose did not improve either their mood or their memory performance.
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.
Moreover, although objective measures of task engagement showed that older adults in the glucose group put more effort into the task than those who consumed the artificial sweetener, their own self-reports showed that they did not feel as if they had tried any harder.
The authors of the study concluded that short-term energy availability in the form of raised blood sugar levels could be an important factor in older adults' motivation to perform a task at their highest capacity.
The findings appeared in the Journal of Psychology and Aging.