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Sugar and the Stock Market

Posted Mar 25 2009 10:56am
  A few days ago The New York Times ran an article about the increase in candy consumption in New York. Apparently, these days stores that specialize in selling candy by the ounce are doing extremely well. The explanation seems to be that as the stock market goes down or at least up and then down, candy consumption goes up.One reason may be that candy is an inexpensive indulgence. A few ounces of Gummy Bears, strings of licorice or those garishly-colored marshmallow chicks called “Peeps” provide many minutes of mouth-filled sweetness for pennies. Also, returning to the pleasures of childhood treats (unless your mother was one of those who forbade sugary snacks) is a welcome diversion from watching your life savings dissolve faster than a Sweet Tart.Eating candy may do more than give the sweet receptors on your tongue a moment of joy. There is an old saying, which I am quoting in reverse: “ Liquor is quicker but candy is dandy.” Candy is a dandy way of making your mood improve. And low or no-fat sugary candy is an effective and efficient way of doing this.Your brain contains the chemicals that affect your mood, for good or bad. One of these is serotonin, which has been dubbed the ‘”feel-good” chemical. When serotonin is active, it promotes feelings of tranquility, relaxation, focus, tolerance for stress, and even the emotional energy that comes with feeling happy. Too little serotonin has the opposite effect, and it is thought that chronic stress may diminish the amount and/or activity of serotonin in the brain. Living as we are through months and months of personal and global financial stress, we all may be suffering from too little serotonin.Unfortunately, serotonin cannot be gulped in a pill or a quick stress-relief drink. Serotonin in the brain must be made in the brain.   If it is floating around the bloodstream it will never get into the brain. So popping serotonin pills, even if they existed, would do no good whatsoever in increasing serotonin in the brain.Fortunately, there is a natural, non-drug, non-herbal, non-supplement way of getting our brains to make more of this helpful chemical. As we point out in our book, The Serotonin Power Diet, eating sweet and/or starchy carbohydrates on an empty stomach will result in serotonin being made in the brain. Serotonin is not made from sugar or starch; rather it is made from an amino acid called tryptophan. As studies at MIT carried out more than 30 years ago showed, when carbohydrates are eaten and insulin is secreted in response, tryptophan gets into the brain very quickly. And serotonin is made immediately. Eat a small bag of jelly bellies; within 20 minutes, you may be feeling much calmer.Interestingly, when protein is eaten this does not occur. Even though tryptophan is an amino acid and thus found in all protein foods, it cannot get into the brain after protein is eaten. Steak will do nothing to help your stress but potatoes eaten without the steak will.Sugary foods bring about serotonin synthesis rapidly because they are digested rapidly. Candy that contains substantial amounts of fat such as chocolate is not as effective because the digestive process is slowed down by the fat. Eating candy after a meal containing protein will be ineffective as well because the protein digesting in your gut will prevent tryptophan from getting into the brain.So if you decide to eat some gumdrops on the way back to the office after your lunch of a turkey sandwich, don’t expect any serotonin to be made. Save whatever sugary treat you bought at the candy store for the late afternoon when your stomach is empty. And saving it for the late afternoon is good for another reason. We showed years ago that serotonin and mood tend to drop in the late afternoon. Eating a sweet or starchy snack around 4 pm will boost your serotonin and mood, regardless of how the market closes. 
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