George Mason University
MS Nutrition Candidate, School of Nutrition and Food Studies
As a parent of two growing kids, I have always focused on feeding them nutrient-dense foods and steering away from the empty calories in high sugar, energy-dense foods. Energy-dense foods have been linked to increased rates of childhood diabetes and obesity, to name a few.
So, naturally, at a recent birthday party, I requested small portions of cake for my kids, expecting they would have a “sugar rush” and go “hyper” after they ate it.
It turns out that expectation may be all wrong.
While there are plenty of reasons for avoiding high sugar food, the evidence that sugar makes kids hyper may not stand up. Yes, there are children, and adults, who have adverse sugar reactions, but the reason most kids seem “hyper” after sugar intake, is that the circumstances surrounding that sugar intake is often what leads to the uptick in energy. Take a birthday party for example. These are rarely low-key, so when a high-energy event is paired with a sugary treat, the result can be explosive.
Let’s take a look at some interesting research. In a study, boys, reported to be behaviorally “sugar sensitive,” were randomly assigned – along with their mothers – to experimental and control groups. Mothers in the experimental group were told their boys were receiving a large dose of sugar. Mothers in the control group were told their boys were getting a placebo. However, researchers gave both groups the placebo. The intent was to measure the parents’ expectation of what might happen. And interestingly, mothers who were told their boys received a high dose of sugar rated the children as far more hyperactive.
At a party, when kids are having fun they inevitably get more excited. That’s usually followed by over-tired and cranky. As a parent, I tend to look at how much sugary stuff they’ve had and assume a link. And I’m not alone. Parents who believe this link exists believe they see it.
While research shows that sugar may not be linked to hyperactivity, there is a definite link to obesity, diabetes, cavities and host of other health issues for our kids. The rise of artificial sweeteners should raise the alarm too, as these chemicals may be equally as harmful to our children’s health. As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our kids understand that while having a sugary treat is okay sometimes, having a balanced diet supports having fun all the time.
Want to read more on this topic? Here are some links to explore:
Does Sugar Really Make You Kids Hyper?
New Evidence for a Direct Sugar-Diabets Link
Sugar doesn’t make kids hyper and other parenting myths
Does Sugar Make Kids Hyper?