Understanding how blood sugar and impulsive behavior affect our ability to respond to changes in the environment

By Ryan Johnson

Your blood sugar and impulsive behavior may influence behavioral flexibility or your ability to respond to changes in the environment. A study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that measures of impulsivity and blood sugar regulation can be used to predict behavioral flexibility.

Both psychological and physiological factors influence behavioral flexibility performance, and evidence suggests that impulsivity and blood glucose can affect executive function, of which behavioral flexibility is a subdomain. Therefore, a team of researchers from Northumbria University and Sheffield Hallam University in the U.K., Sunway University in Malaysia, and NeuroCognitive Institute in the U.S. investigated whether impulsivity and blood sugar could affect behavioral flexibility.

For the study, the research team hypothesized that impulsive behavior, fasting blood sugar, and blood sugar changes from postprandial blood sugar following the intake of a 15-gram sugary drink could influence changes in behavioral flexibility performance. To test their hypothesis, they measured the participants’ behavioral flexibility using the Stroop Color-Word Test and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), and the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11) for impulsivity. The research team tested whether impulsivity, fasting blood sugar, and blood sugar levels after the consumption of a sugary drink could predict behavioral flexibility performance on the Stroop or the WCST.

The results showed that absolute changes in blood sugar levels after the intake of the sugary drink beverage could better predict behavioral flexibility performance. Lower impulsivity scores and smaller differences in blood glucose levels from time 1 to time 2 predicted a reduction in the number of total and perseverative errors on the WCST. Perseverative error is defined as the continuing recurrence of an error, such as repeating the same answer to a series of different questions. From these results, the research team concluded that blood sugar and impulsivity may influence an individual’s ability to respond to changes in the environment.