Mythbuster – Does sugar make kids hyper?

By: Akshaya, Science Expo Ontario

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Myth:

You’ve probably had the terrifying experience taking care of a accepting a babysitting request to a sweet little angel, only to find out that you’ve lucked out to get them while they were on a ‘sugar high’. But should you really blame the sugar? Let’s find out!

The Science Behind It:

Sugar is believed to cause hyperactive behaviours for a variety of reasons. The reasons range from allergic responses to refined sugar to alterations in blood glucose levels. However, according to a study in 1995, there is almost no evidence of a link between the consumption of sugar and hyperactivity.

There were two studies that were completed. In the first study, children were given sucrose or an artificial sweetener and their behaviour was monitored without the subject knowing whether or not they were given sugar or a placebo. The second study focused on children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and involved subjects between the ages of two and thirty. Both studies concluded that sugar does affect behaviour or cognitive performance.

So why do children seem more hyperactive?

In the first experiment mentioned, half the mothers were led to believe that their children drank something sugary and other mothers were told that it was a placebo. However, all the children were given the placebo drink. The mothers who thought their children consumed a sugary drink thought they were more hyperactive, and resulted in them staying closer to their children and watching them. Based on this experiment’s results you could say that it changed the mothers’ behaviour more than the sons.

This myth is mainly psychological. When people believe a link exists, in this case between sugar and hyperactivity, they see one. Also, often times children are generally more excited at events where sugary foods are usually served, where the environment is a bigger factor than the food itself.

Nonetheless, sugar does have other implications, although it may not make kids hyper, be linked to it is linked to obesity, diabetes, and cavities. Just keep it in moderation!

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