Does Sugar Make Kids Hyper?

Does Sugar Make Kids Hyper

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“Don’t mind him. It’s all the sugar rush from the donut he just had!” said Timothy’s mom.

Timothy is a highly active children who also happens to like sweets. His sister does not like sweets but is active nevertheless. So the question is, does sugar make children hyper? Or does it make them dull and tired?

In this article, MomJunction sets out to find if there is any truth in the theory that sugary foods give your children a high and make them hyperactive.

Does Sugar Make Kids Hyper?

Not Really.

There is a lot of propaganda against sugar and everything sweet, owing to the many adverse effects it has on our body. While tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes are the most common risks associated with sugar consumption, medicine doesn’t have substantial proof that sugar results in hyperactivity.

In fact, the first mention of sugar and its possible connection with hyperactivity in children was mentioned in a journal called Glucose Tolerance and Hyperkinesis, 1978. This studied 265 students who displayed symptoms of hyperactivity and were diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which is caused by excess consumption of sugar.

In another study in 1994, researchers divided 35 boys and their moms into two groups to study the relationship between sugar and hyperactivity. The mothers in the first group were told that their children were given large amounts of sugar, while the mothers in the second group were told that their children were given a placebo. In reality, all the children were given a non-sugary placebo.

However, mothers of children who believed that their children consumed lots of sugar seemed more watchful of the children’s behavior, were more critical and reported hyperactivity. This led the researchers to believe that it is just the heightened awareness of the parents that is adding weight to the myth of sugar rush, not the sugar itself (1).

Even today, some researchers are trying to find that link between sugar consumption and hyperactivity, or even Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the long-term. But none have been able to prove definitively that sugar creates a rush or makes one hyperactive.

However, sugar does affect your body. Research also suggests that long-term consumption of sugar can lead to mental health problems (2). Does that mean that having a lot of sugar means having drastic body changes? Let’s find out.

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[ Read: Tooth Abscess In Children ]

What Really Happens When You consume sugar?

The sugar consumed by the child is digested and broken down into glucose by the enzymes present in the small intestine. This glucose is then released into the blood, which transports it as energy to different parts of the body. So when you eat more sugar, there is more glucose in the body.

Glucose levels in the body are monitored by the pancreatic beta cells. When your body gets more sugar than needed, the liver stores it as fat for later use, when the blood sugar levels are low. When the body does not get food, this excess sugar is used to supply energy to certain parts of the body that need glucose. Other parts of the body are supplied with ketones, which are alternative fuels that the liver produces.

That means everything should be consumed in moderation, but what happens if you can’t move away from sugar?

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Sugar Addiction In Children

Do you remember when your child said he’d eat just one cookie, and then pleased for another and then another? It was like he couldn’t have just one sweet treat, right?

Well, the fact is that he couldn’t. Sugar consumption can release opioid such as serotonin and dopamine in the body, giving it the potential to be an addictive substance. While not everyone gets addicted to sugar, studies say that people can get addicted to the white powder under certain circumstances (3). In fact, studies on animals have proven that sugar is more addictive than cocaine (4)!

How do you know if your child is dependent on or addicted to sugar?

Watch out for these symptoms (5):

  • Finds an excuse to eat something sweet
  • Is willing to consume the closest thing to a sweet such as a piece of fruit, fruit juice, or even chewing gum
  • Is irritable or restless when he doesn’t get his dose of sugar
  • Throws tantrums, when you refuse to give him sugary stuff
  • Craving for sugar
  • Withdrawal-like symptoms such as exhaustion, after abstaining from sugar consumption

While not all these indicate an ‘addiction’ to sugar, it is highly likely that children who are sugar-sensitive can display one or more of these signs depending on their level of sugar consumption. So, how can you control this sugar monster?

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Managing Your Child’s Sugar Intake

Whether or not sugar is addictive, too much of it can be bad for your child’s health. Excessive sugar consumption over long periods can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease, according to a study (6). So there is a need to limit your child’s sugar intake early on and restrict the daily intake to the recommended quantity.

[ Read: Symptoms Of Diabetes In Children ]

AgeDaily Recommended Intake Of Sugar In GramsEquivalent In Teaspoons
4-6 years19g5
7-10 years24g6
11 years and Above30g7

Table Source.

Here are a few tips to control your child’s sugar intake.

  • Replace cereals, fruit juices, and other foods that have added sugar with natural sugar sources such as fresh fruit, whole wheat toast, and skimmed plant-based milk or sugar-free yogurt.
  • Instead of cookies, pastries, or cakes, give the children scones, breadsticks, or vegetable sticks that have no added sugar.
  • Replace fizzy drinks, packaged fruit juices, and other sweetened drinks with plain water or unsweetened fruit juices.
  • Try sugar-free bakes with healthy alternatives for children.
  • Include more protein and sugar-free carbohydrates such as rice, oats, and bread in the meal.
  • Replace packaged snacks such as chips with roasted or salted nuts, and serve more fruits and vegetables in the child’s meals, so that he feels full and doesn’t crave for anything sweet.
  • Avoid eating out too much. When you often cook at home, you have more control over how much sugar goes into your child’s food.

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[ Read: Food Allergies In Children ]

A little bit of sugar does no harm, so giving your child an occasional sweet treat is okay. But giving them sweet drinks and foods every day is not recommended. While sugar does not necessarily make children hyperactive, it can be addictive and unhealthy when consumed in excessive quantities.

How do you manage your child’s sugar intake? Tell us about your children’s sweet stories in the comments section!

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