Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Which is the Culprit of Hyperactivity: the Sugar or the Party?

We’ve all heard this from many frenzied parents, “Sugar will make them hyper, don’t give it to them or they’ll be bouncing off the walls!” For some reason, parents habitually associate their children’s unruly behavior with the consumption of sugary snacks and drinks. It has been long accepted by the general public that kids get a “sugar high” that results in complete chaos; which is why many parents have tried to avoid giving sugar to their children or instead use artificial sweeteners. But is there really any truth to all this hype? Thorough research studies say no, and that there’s actually no such thing as a “sugar high;” but even despite this, the myth has persisted.
Back in the 70’s, basic and undeveloped research pointed to a potential correlation between sugar and kid’s hyperactivity. However, in 1995, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a review of over 20 thorough and controlled double-blind studies on the issue that yielded results showing no relationship whatsoever between sugar consumption and kid’s behavior. Yet the myth still persists! It does seem to be human nature to jump to quick and effortless conclusions. Some wise parents, however, have realized that perhaps it is not the consumption of sugars that makes their kids hyper, but instead the context of situations in which sugar is consumed that causes hyperactivity. They are exactly right. Think about it: sugary foods are usually consumed at kid’s birthday parties, play dates, holidays, etc., and that is where kids appear to be the most hyperactive. The kids are hyper because they are running around with a bunch of other kids in a free and fun environment; not because they had too much chocolate cake and soda. And for that matter, it could be the caffeine in those types of products that causes the hyperactivity; so don’t be so quick to blame the sugar!
It seems are though parents’ interpretations of their children’s “hyper” behavior is more a product of their own personal expectations and beliefs, than is the actual causes of such behavior. In other words, if a parent thinks that sugar causes hyperactivity, then they will report more hyperactivity when their child consumes sugar.
This does not mean that parents should let their children pig out on candy and soda whenever they want, but it does mean that they should consider other outside influences on their children’s behavior other than just what they consume. It is important to note, however, that this myth is not to be confused with a disorder like ADHD, which is a serious and unconnected issue to occasional hyperactivity in kids.


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