Hmm… Does Sugar Make Kids Hyper?
The other day my niece discovered the wonders of tea and we discovered the wonders of a hyperactive toddler; otherwise known as a gremlin/troll. I’m talking bouncing off the walls, sleep is nowhere in sight, might eat all of her crayons hyper.
Then a light bulb went off that we could try decaffeinated tea, duh! That begs the question; while science has shown that caffeine can induce hyperactivity does sugar make kids hyper? [Edit: table sugar or sucrose] Basically if the tea was sweet, would the decaffeinated tea create a spastic gremlin-Esque child?
Sugar Make Kids Hyper?
When it comes down to it, science says no!
There have been numerous scientific studies that have indicated that sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children (Rosen et al 1988; Kanarek 1994).
The research has even gone so far as to demonstrate that no matter the sugar source (candy or chocolate – although cocoa could have some effect) a hyperactive response was not induced!
Get this though, while the children’s behaviors might not change at all, the parent’s behaviors might change! One study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology indicated that when mothers thought their children had consumed sugary drinks (even though they only consumed a placebo) they were more inclined to think their children were acting hyperactive while researchers observing the study found no alteration in the child’s behavior.
These mothers were also more inclined to watch them closer and criticize them more if they thought they had consumed a sugary drink (Hoover & Milich 1994). Come on moms, let the kids be!
So what gives? Why do we inherently associate sugar with hyperactivity?
Well for one, a lot of times sugar accompanies caffeine in many beverages which do induce hyperactivity; ours brains inherently link the two.
Another possible link between hyperactivity and sugar could be that most of the time when these sugary substances are consumed it is during times of increased physical activity excitement that cause the children to be hyper.
For instance, children are excited and hyper during Halloween, Christmas, and birthday parties because of all the activities going on around them. Because they ingest sugary substances like candy and cake during these times is just a coincidence that makes most people think it is the cause of the little tikes being wicked hyper.
Although your kid may not get hyper, it is best for adults and children alike to not consume too much sugar (besides natural sources = fruit) due to the dental and weight consequences.
These studies that depict that there is no link between sugar and hyperactivity in children are definitely not concrete and more research is needed on the subject. For instance, some kids could respond differently or other circumstances could induce hyperactivity.
That being said, the next time your kid is acting like the spawn of Satan on Halloween (literally and figuratively) it might not be the pound of chocolate or even the 200 sweet tarts he ate, it might be the fact that there is so much going on, he gets to stay up past his bedtime, and it’s the season to be hyper!
So does sugar make kids hyper? It appears it isn’t necessarily sugar, it could be the atmosphere (or just in your head)!
Hoover DW, Milich R (1994) Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies of mother-child interactions. J Abnorm Child Psychol 22: 501-515.
Kanarek RB (1994) Does sucrose or aspartame cause hyperactivity in children? Nutrition Review 52: 173-175.
Rosen LA, Booth SR, Bender ME, McGrath ML, Sorrell S, Drabman RS (1988) Effects of sugar (sucrose) on children’s behavior. 56: 583-589.
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