Masters Thesis

The effects of blood glucose concentration on decision making in the context of outdoor education

It has been hypothesized that some accidents in the backcountry are due to individuals being hypoglycemic (low blood glucose concentration). Glucose is the brain’s main energy source. Without proper blood glucose concentrations, the brain’s functionality decreases. When this happens the ability to make decisions may be impaired. In outdoor education, instructors, students, and staff are actively involved in decision making which includes choices affecting the safety of themselves as well as others. The purpose of the study was to examine if blood glucose concentration affects the ability to make decisions in the context of outdoor education. The study was a blind randomized cross-over design in which half the subjects consumed a carbohydrate replacement beverage while the other half consumed artificially flavored water as a placebo. Six subjects participated in the study and hiked 10.2 miles with 25% of their body weight to simulate the activity of backpacking. During predetermined time intervals, the subjects would have their blood glucose concentration measured and performed a basic decision making test. The results of this study showed that drinking a carbohydrate replacement drink had a significant effect on blood glucose concentrations; however, it did not show that blood glucose concentration had an effect on decision making. Current literature supports that blood glucose concentration does have an effect on decision-making. Understanding the physiological impacts of blood glucose concentration in relation to decision making can further improve risk management practices of outdoor education programs.