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Does Sugar Really Make Kids Hyper?

Posted by on Nov. 4, 2014 at 8:46 PM
  • 3 Replies

Does Sugar Really Make Kids Hyper?

girl with lollipopsLong before you're fretting over whether your kids are dabbling in drugs at some high school party, you've most likely seen them high on sugar -- from cakes at birthday parties, Halloween candy, Christmas cookies, the list goes on and on. And if your kids overdo it (as kids are wont to do), you've no doubt braced yourself for their transformation into Tasmanian devils -- tearing through the house, jumping on couches, knocking down furniture ... pure chaos. And clearly the sugar is to blame.

Yet scientists beg to differ, claiming that sugar isn't the culprit. "Plenty of research has been done proving that the whole 'sugar high' thing is a myth," says Meena Chintapalli, MD, a pediatrician in San Antonio, Texas, at A Thru Z Pediatrics. "Some studies have linked high sugar intake to ADHD; however, it has never been definitively proven."

In fact, more than 50 international studies have been done assessing a possible link between sugar and hyperactivity. "All of the studies point to the same answer: no," says Joseph Wells, MD, a pediatrician in Avondale, Arizona, at MVP Kids Care. In 1982, the National Institutes of Health even announced that no link between sugar and hyperactivity had been scientifically proven. Case closed.

So why, then, does nearly every parent believe that sugar gets their kids wired? "Part of it may be psychological," says Dr. Wells. "For example, parents often cringe at birthday party invitations, dreading the 'sugar high' their child will experience after cake, cookies, and juice. While eating a lot of sugar in one seating may increase blood-sugar levels, a more likely reason why kids seem to bounce off the walls might be what follows cake and ice-cream -- for example, is the birthday boy opening presents? Are the parents at the party getting a headache from the noise and have a lower tolerance to rowdy children?"

In scientific terms, researchers believe parents may confuse proximity (sugary foods) with correlation (sugar rush), although the environment (the party!) is probably more to blame than the food. Case in point: a study published in the August 1994 Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology showed that parents who believe a child's behavior is affected by sugar are more likely to perceive and report their children as hyperactive. So, believing it can make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

Of course, there are still plenty of good reasons not to feed your kids tons of sugar; it's just that fear of creating a little sugar-crazed creature isn't one of them. "Lots of sugar is bad for kids because it certainly is linked to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay," says Dr. Wells. "And, since sugary foods are frequently high in calories and/or artificial ingredients, pediatricians get concerned about kids substituting sweet, processed foods for nutritious items, like vegetables, proteins, and whole grains."

But the jury is still out on whether or not replacing sugary foods and beverages with "diet" foods or beverages is better or worse. "Sugar-alternatives are numerous, and so far each carry some risk when consumed in large quantities," warns Dr. Wells. "Limited research has suggested that the body's reaction to artificial sweeteners -- increasing insulin -- may be similar to that of sugar."

So what should parents take away from this? First, similar to other dietary advice, moderation is key. "It's okay to occasionally give your child gummy bears, a candy bar, or a Popsicle," says Dr. Wells. "Depriving children completely of things that taste good can make them want it even more." Second, never give babies under 6 months old juice, soda pop, or other sugary drinks, since this just helps them develop a taste for them. Third, don't use honey as a sugar substitute for children under 1 year of age. And last but not least, "if your family's diet consists of a good amount of processed food, be careful about the hidden sugars in things like salad dressing, sauces, soups, and condiments," says Dr. Wells.

For more guidance on how much sugar is okay for your kids, go to the World Health Organization's information page on recommended sugar intake by age.

 

Are you convinced the "sugar rush" is a myth?

by on Nov. 4, 2014 at 8:46 PM
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Replies (1-3):
Hottmomma607
by Trica on Nov. 4, 2014 at 8:59 PM
I believe its a myth. IMHOP
SuperPickle
by Ruby Member on Nov. 4, 2014 at 9:28 PM

My kids dont get all hyped up on sugar....add artificial food coloring(which ALOT of candies and other sugar laden food have) THEN I get nut bag swinging from the rafters wild monkeys in my home.....

Mygirl30248
by Bronze Member on Nov. 4, 2014 at 10:03 PM
I always thought it was a myth. My DD gets hyper at any random time for any random reason.
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