Turns out sugar doesn’t make kids ‘hyper’ – but it does

news.com.au — Australia

‘Sugar sensitivity’ and the idea that sugar triggers hyperactivity among children may just be a myth for several good reasons.

“Careful. He’s on a sugar high!

It’s a familiar story. We’ve all heard stories from parents about how hyperactive their kids got after stuffing themselves with birthday cake.

Perhaps you’ve heeded warnings from grandparents, friends, or well-meaning strangers to keep your kids off the sweet tooth so they don’t bounce off the walls at bedtime.

And it all feels, well, right, doesn’t it? I mean, have you ever been to a kid’s birthday party? They’re not for the faint of heart – they’re the beautiful kind of mess, but after dragging your dirty, screaming children from the castle jumping and getting into the car, wondering what happened to your gentlemanly little angel, you can be forgiven for thinking that sugar is the culprit.

As it turns out, the link between sugar consumption and hyperactivity is nothing more than a myth – and it continues to be.

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So what does science say?

There have been many studies over the last few decades looking at the link between sugar consumption and parental reports of hyperactivity in children. One of the strongest of these was a 1995 meta-analysis of 16 double-blind studies which confirmed that sugar had no appreciable effect on children’s cognition or behavior.

So while reports from parents of a link between sugar consumption and their children’s loss of marbles persist, the point is studies have consistently failed to find substantial evidence to support the idea that sugar causes hyperactivity in children.

What else is that?

There is no doubt that parents know children best. We understand their preferences, love their little quirks, and we know when their behavior is out of the ordinary. For this reason, it is likely that reports from parents noticing wild behavior changes in their young children are not hyperbolic.


One explanation could be due to the environment in which children tend to consume large amounts of sugar. I’m talking about birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, special events, places where all bets are off, and the point is eat, drink, and be merry. These events tend to be overly stimulating and full of high-energy activities, so the kids are probably just having fun, not sugar.

Social reinforcement

Another explanation comes down to social reinforcement. When parents hold the belief that sugar makes their kids go crazy, they tend to warn their kids, “Don’t eat so much sugar, remember it makes you hyper,” or they talk about it within earshot, so the kid internalizes it. belief, therefore exhibiting the expected behavior.

It can also work the other way around. A study conducted in the 1990s divided 35 children whose mothers reported they were “sugar sensitive” into two groups. The mothers in the first group were told their children had been given large amounts of sugar, while the mothers in the second group were told their children had been given a placebo.

All of the children were actually given a placebo but mothers in the first group reported that their children were “significantly more hyperactive”. The researchers concluded that parents’ perceptions of their children’s behavior were strongly influenced by their beliefs that they had consumed sugar.

Food coloring

Another interesting explanation comes down to confirmation bias, or, basically, that we blame the wrong people. According to Pediatric Dietitian Miriam Raleigh, “When people say sugar is making their kids hyperactive, they are usually referring to when they are eating sugary foods that are processed and colored. In my experience, the behavior they see is usually not a result of sugar, but rather a poor tolerance by their child to some of the dyes used in these products.”

It turns out that there are several food colorings that are associated with hyperactivity in children. “The most researched are Tartrazine, Allura Red AC, Ponceau 4R, Quinoline Yellow WS, Sunset Yellow, and Carmoisine,” said Raleigh.

So, in cases where parents notice a marked change in behavior, “It is most likely food coloring and not sugar that is triggering this ‘hyperactivity’ in their child.”

Today, sugar has been maligned so rampantly in our media that it seems to be the most obvious culprit. We just decided not to check any other potential suspects, because we are know sugar is bad, so it makes sense that’s the culprit.

So what’s wrong with that?

The bottom line is that parents are not making this up. There are several reasons why we might notice a marked change in children’s behavior after consuming sweets. But even if science says otherwise, what’s wrong with believing sugar turns our kids into little gremlins?

In practice, Raleigh observed the effect these beliefs had on the way parents fed their children. “This is a very common belief among parents and as a result, many will try to limit their child’s sugar intake to help regulate the behaviors they associate with sweet food consumption.”

And while keeping sugar in our children’s diets is widely recommended for overall health, it’s important that we avoid creating narratives in which sugar consumption is ‘forbidden’, ‘bad’ or ‘harmful’. “It is very important not to alienate any food group or type of food as ‘bad’ because often interest in them simply grows as a result,” emphasizes Raleigh.

In addition, research establishes food restrictions and dietary behaviors as risk factors for eating disorders. This meta-analysis, published in January this year, found that exposure to disordered eating behaviors, such as dietary restrictions in parents, can impact the early development of eating disorders in children. The shining news from the same study is that “In contrast, parental conversations about healthy eating, rather than diet or weight, and regular family meals were found to protect against the development of ED among a sample of children and adolescents.”

Where from here?

This is not to say go and fill your snack with sweet treats. Excess sugar consumption is known to have a detrimental effect on the body and mouth of the little person, with tooth decay and nutritional deficiencies being two consequences of a diet too laden with sugar.

As always, the key is moderation. “Encouraging children to have nutritious meals throughout the day and day to day while also making room for some free meals is extremely important,” says Raleigh.

Showing our children that all food is on the table while teaching them the importance of supporting themselves nutritionally can go a long way in cultivating healthy and happy little eaters.

#Turns #sugar #doesnt #kids #hyper

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