Nutrition Fact or Fiction: Does Sugar Cause Hyperactivity

FullSizeRender 6.jpgDoes anyone out there have that friend who knows EVERYTHING there is to know about nutrition?  Well, I try to not be that person.  I really try hard to not critique others’ food choices, keep my mouth shut when they start talking about cleanses, and actually try to not even bring up my profession unless asked.  However, sometimes you just have to set the record straight, like today.  That’s right, we are busting myths here on Nurture Your Sprout, starting with sugar and hyperactivity.

How often do we hear parents talking about not wanting to give their kid sugar because it will make them hyper? How often as parents do we do that ourselves? I’m not saying you can’t blame the hyperactivity on sugar intake anymore, I’m just saying if you do, it’s probably not true.  

The tale linking sugar and hyperactivity goes back to the 1970’s.   One single study found that removing sugar from a diet lead to improved behavior in children.  If you’re unfamiliar with the world of scientific studies, just know that a single study can’t really prove anything.  Science is too complicated and humans are too complicated to prove anything with one study.  There are just too many factors to cover and too much diversity in the human race to account for every possible outcome in a single study.  

You may have guessed that sugar and hyperactivity have been studied since 1970.  And what did these studies show?  The majority of studies have shown either no relationship between sugar and hyperactivity OR even improved behavior with sugar.  I mean, one study showed that children with ADHD were quieter and less active after receiving sugar when compared to a placebo! Can you believe that?! Another study looked at parents’ perception of their child’s hyperactivity.  Parent’s were asked to rank their child’s hyperactivity after the kid’s were given a sugary drink.  Even though the drink was actually sugar-free, parent’s rated their child’s behavior as more hyper.  So many studies that don’t show any relationship when it comes to sugar causing hyperactivity.  (As with most things nutrition-related, there may be some very rare exceptions where children are sensitive to sugar.  Keep in mind this is the exception, not the rule)

Now, I don’t want you to think I’m saying your kids can have all the sugar they want.  There are plenty of reasons to limit those yummy sweets (including better oral health and helping them get their calories from more nutritious foods) but preventing hyperactivity isn’t one of them.  So what might be the cause of your kids acting hyper when they have sugar?  Take a look at the situation.  Often we provide sugar as a treat during special occasions (i.e. birthdays, holidays) when they might already be amped up in anticipation of the celebration.  Or perhaps they are with friends having fun, or on vacation. OR, maybe as parent’s we just perceive their behavior as more hyper because we’ve heard that myth over and over again.  Whatever the reason, you may want to think twice before you blame your sprouts hyperactivity on their sugar intake.  

So, the belief that sugar causes hyperactivity? Definitely fiction! What are some other nutrition fact or fictions you’d like to learn about? Be sure to comment below with any questions you may have!

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