• Sugar, and candy, do not make kids hyper

    Since it’s now the day after Halloween, I thought I’d protect your children from this myth. It’s also one of my favorites.

    Let’s cut to the chase: sugar doesn’t make kids hyper. There have been at least twelve trials of various diets investigating different levels of sugar in children’s diets.  That’s more studies than are often done on drugs. None of them detected any differences in behavior between children who had eaten sugar and those who hadn’t.  These studies included sugar from candy, chocolate, and natural sources.  Some of them were short-term, and some of them were long term. Some of them focused on children with ADHD. Some of them even included only children who were considered “sensitive” to sugar. In all of them, children did not behave differently after eating something full of sugar or something sugar-free.

    Personally, I think there are so many studies on this issue because after each was completed, the results were met with such skepticism that researchers felt the need to do another. This myth, perhaps more than any other, is met with disbelief when we discuss it, especially among parents.

    In my favorite of these studies, children were divided into two groups.  All of them were given a sugar-free beverage to drink. But half the parents were told that their child had just had a drink with sugar.  Then, all of the parents were told to grade their children’s behavior.  Not surprisingly, the parents of children who thought their children had drunk a ton of sugar rated their children as significantly more hyperactive. This myth is entirely in parents’ heads. We see it because we believe it.

    Even when science shows time and again that it’s not so,  we continue to persist in believing that sugar causes our kids to be hyperactive. That’s likely because there’s an association. Times when kids get a lot of sugar are often times when they are predisposed to be a little excited. Halloween. Birthday parties. Holidays. We may even be causing the problem ourselves. Some parents are so restrictive about sugar and candy that when their kids finally get it they’re quite excited. Even hyper.

    This does not mean that there aren’t a ton of great reasons why our kid should not ingest large quantities of sugar.  As almost any parent knows, sugar has been linked to cavities and the obesity epidemic. Just don’t blame it for your child’s bad behavior.

    References:

    1. Hoover DW, Milich R. Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies on mother-child interactions. J Abnorm Child Psychol 1994;22:501-15.
    2. Kinsbourne M. Sugar and the hyperactive child. N Engl J Med 1994;330:355-6.
    3. Krummel DA, Seligson FH, Guthrie HA. Hyperactivity: is candy causal? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 1996;36:31-47.
    4. Wolraich ML, Lindgren SD, Stumbo PJ, Stegink LD, Appelbaum MI, Kiritsy MC. Effects of diets high in sucrose or aspartame on the behavior and cognitive performance of children. N Engl J Med 1994;330:301-7.
    Adapted from Don’t Swallow Your Gum by Dr. Aaron E. Carroll and Dr. Rachel C. Vreeman. Copyright © 2009 by the authors and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.
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    • I’m glad to hear about these trials. In fact, here in Brazil I’ve never heard anyone mention this “theory”. Nor have I heard it in other places I’ve visited, except the US.

    • Aaron any of these use any sort of neurological equipment? I’m curious to see whether it impacts brain behavior in a similar fashion of that of ADHD. Having a mother grade her kid is fun, but there might be quantitative biological aspects that have yet to be measured.

      If it hasn’t been done the research has not been complete. Qualitative studies are nice but if we can’t say BIOLOGICALLY nothing is there, then the door is still open for other work.

      • Experiments in cognitive neuroscience look for the underlying mechanisms of higher order processes, including behavior. However, its experiments almost always rely on a standardized measure rather than something that is directly observable. Though empirical rather than causal, it is the generally the most objective way to evaluate a complex system. The idea of purely quantitative biological evidence, though well-meaning, is a bit naive.

    • The sugar = hyperactivity meme has always struck me as absurd, because I think it comes from a misunderstanding of what is meant by saying sugar is a source of energy. Most people take that to mean that sugar is a stimulant; indeed, I think that is the common understanding of what is meant when we say macro-nutrient X “provides energy”.

      On the other hand, there is a kind of Sugar Peril aspect to it…you never hear parents freaking out about how potatoes and eggs are making kids crazy.

      • I can agree with this, but wheres the biological evidence? Source it, and don’t go by feelings!

        I’m curious, not trying to be belligerent.

        • Beligerant. And, yes, it’s funny how people in the US persist in this myth. Never head about it anywhere else either. It’s like the myth about drinking two litters of water a day: yes, you should drink about that much, but you should also deduct the amount of water that’s in your food. Otherwise, you’ll end up ingesting a lot more water, which is not good.

    • The proper answer is parents make kids hyper?

    • Jonathan, did you even read the article?

      • I guess not. But do me a favor don’t get snobby and say your more educated. I’m not trying to be rude while you clearly are. Also remember educated is a relative term. Especially since you don’t know me or how much education I have had.

    • Johnathan, I think the implication was that they are more educated for having actually bothered to read the article, not as a general statement. Calm it down.

    • My first response is to say: Do you have children!?! But with some reflection, the difference between the burst of energy my children exhibit after eating food vs. eating sugar isn’t so great. Emotional consistency isn’t the same thing. Candy will give rise to more pronounced peaks on behavior, but energy(hyperness) is about the same. Empirically speaking of course.

      • I have three, and I’m over this myth. I think the final study should make everyone reflect on their biases.

      • It seems that a lot of people are forgetting the biology here, like what Jonathan is talking about. I agree, sugar will not “cause” hyperactivity.

        However, don’t forget that sugar DOES release endorphins. Endorphins are a group of peptide hormones that occur naturally in the brain that, when released, increase your body’s threshold for pain and affect the way you feel emotionally.

        Sugar and sweet foods release endorphins. Couple that with the general lack of inhibitions in kids, and you get a child who feels HAPPY, and when children feel happy, they do what ever comes to mind, whether that means running around in a circle beating on their own head, or dancing like a crazy penguin, or jumping on that fun sofa.

        This goes back to – have you been a parent? I agree that sugar is not directly linked to hyperactivity, but I will NOT concede that sugar does not make a child feel really happy due to the release of endorphins, thus leading them to more ‘energetic’, ‘happy’ behaviors than normal. THAT is the biological response for Jonathan. I’m not sure why these studies IGNORE that.

        • So the children whose parents thought they had a drink with sugar were more “Happy” than the ones whose parents (correctly) believed they had not?

          The studies aren’t ignoring anything.

    • It’s important to consider the context in which kids generally eat sugar… Halloween, birthday parties, etc. Plus, the parents are often standing around commiserating with each other abut how hyper their kids are going to be from eating all that sugar.

      It’s not the sugar; it’s the circumstances.

      • Again. Think about inhibitions coupled with the release of endorphins. The kid is more likely to do what he/she feels like when he/she has a release of the chemical in the brain that leads to an emotional rise. Sugar does cause that.

        • Happiness also causes endorphin release. And love. And new stimuli.

          But by all means, keep focusing exclusively on the sugar.

    • I was wondering what “sugar-free” substitutes were included in the mix? I do believe that as parents we focus too much on sugar and not on all the other additives to foods (dyes, GMOs, etc) but for the sugar-free conversation if Aspartame was used I would question the balanced study. Aspartame can often have a strong effect on childrens behaviour. Sometimes more than the supposed sugar reaction. Thoughts?

    • Rebecca, could you please link to a few peer-reviewed scientific studies which conclude that aspartame has a strong effect on children’s behavior.

    • So, some kids were given a “sugar-free drink.” What ELSE was in that drink? Were any of the kids sensitive to red food dyes that may or may not have been in those drinks? (mine are, and I have unsolicited accounts from other parents and from teachers who’ve seen my kids after they eat certain foods to back that up.) What about to artificial sweeteners? To artificial flavorings? What kind of sugar? Glucose? Fructose? Sucrose (a mix of both)? HFCS (which in many cases contains mercury)? My kids are also sensitive to fructose, to the point that more than one small juice box renders them spacy and weepy and combative in the space of 20 minutes; this lasts for several hours (and again, plenty of third-party commentary, anecdotal though it may be, to back this up as well). Were ANY of the children tested for any food sensitivities that might account for the behaviors? And since when is “sugar” a single monolithic substance?

      Fact: I let my kids have a couple pieces of Halloween candy after they came back from Trick-or-Treating. By a “couple” I mean 2 or 3, depending on the size of the selections. The child who had sneaked 3 more pieces while still out on rounds went to bed weepy and frazzled and woke exhausted, even after having had a nutritious supper and going to bed at close to her normal bedtime, while the other “only” had a restless night; neither circumstance here is the norm. That reinforces my experiences of the past 10 years with my children on processed foods, not to mention my experience as a teacher for the past 30 years.

    • I’m sorry, Deb, but I can’t accept your personal anecdotal story. The “sugar high” myth is all in your head.
      Mercury? Really? Am I going to become hyper after eating a tuna fish sandwich? Trotting out a list of scary sounding chemicals is not going to convince me of anything. It’s just fear mongering.
      Sugars aren’t good for us in large doses, but we should avoid them for the right reasons.

    • Yeah, basically.

    • Hmmm…the most recent study cited here was 1996. Not to say that it couldn’t still be true but in my experience as a researcher, a single study is mildly compelling but the real predictive power comes in repeating comparable studies over time. The author does say “12 studies” and only specifically cites 4 so I suppose the other 8 may be more recent.

    • No study of a group can determine the properties of a single individual. Humans are a varied and heterogeneous population. It is possible and likely that different people react differently to sugar. Therefore, while as a whole the population may not show a statistically significant trend, that doesn’t mean that no one is affected by sugar. There may be some children which are sensitive, and others which are not. Furthermore, the periods of sensitivity to any input like sugar, for any child, will vary, depending on many factors such as time of day, metabolic state from previously ingested food and liquid, mental state, stimulation by other sources, amount of sleep deprivation, etc. These are hard or impossible to control for in a study. So while these studies show that in general the population may not generally be affected by sugar, it does not necessarily imply that every child does not react to sugar. Therefore, those who have anecdotal evidence should not be summarily dismissed. No one on this board can speak for the effect of sugar on any individual that they have not studied and observed. Certainly, there is the aura of sugar causing behavior problems, and the studies show that it is likely not the case in many or most children. However, there is likely a set of children in which the effect is real, and perhaps dramatic. So categorically dismissing this possibility is as unscientific and biased as those accepting the “sugar high” myth without question. The truth is somewhere in between.

      There are many examples of drugs that only work in a small population of people. If you look at the drug in the whole population, you might conclude that the drug does not work in general, since the majority of people don’t respond. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that some people do respond.

      In the end, as a parent, we are interested in the individual, not the population. Population studies are great for determining general trends of the human response to various inputs, but they really should not be used as a guide on an individual basis. Each person should be considered as a unique being that has a particular way of reacting to their environment, and with observation, one may learn what is best for them. There are almost always exceptions to every rule.

      • So if I take a population of kids just at you described, whose parents say they are sensitive to sugar, and then I do an RCT on them and see no difference, that doesn’t change your mind at all? The study of just those types of kids which showed it’s in parents’ minds doesn’t change yours at all?

        • I never denied that many parents wrongly think sugar sensitivities apply to their child, because it is a widespread idea. I said in my post above:
          “Certainly, there is the aura of sugar causing behavior problems, and the studies show that it is likely not the case in many or most children. ”
          To be clear, I could have added, ” including many children of parents who think this to be the case.”

          I think it’s established that the set of children sensitive to sugar is not the majority of the population, and that the number of parents who think their kids are sensitive is larger than the number of kids who actually are.

          However, that doesn’t preclude the idea that some children are sensitive. This tail of the distribution of reactions to sugar might be small but not necessarily insignificant. There are many kids in the world. If only 0.5% have sugar sensitivity (99.5 CI, if you will), that is still millions of kids. Not enough to affect a population study trend, but but not an insignificant number of cases. Perhaps, enough to let the idea take hold and spread throughout the population. Once the idea takes hold, it really biases things, but that doesn’t mean every individual case is invalidated because a “myth” has been blown up.

          So no, that study doesn’t change my mind, because my mind isn’t made up. All I’m saying is that none of the studies have the power to categorically dismiss sugar sensitivity in all individuals. Merely, in the majority. We can argue about the confidence intervals and statistics, but given the current research, sugar sensitivity cannot be labeled a myth. Overblown effect, perhaps. Myth, no. And in the end, it comes down to the individual in question. The effect of sugar on 35 kids that are not mine does not the change the response in my child, whatever that response may be. It may be unlikely that any given child is sugar sensitive, but if they are, then that is the reality. How to determine that reality is a challenge. Parents are biased, easily influenced, etc. Sure. But you can’t blame everything on just that. If I study the diet and response of a child to changes in that diet, and find improvements therein, then that has meaning. Are all parents up to this task? No. Some see what they want to see. But citing a study of 35 kids and telling all parents that there is no way their child is sugar sensitive is, well, biased.

          • Should have added that the first linked paper selected based on parents expectations and tested that as well. That shows the idea is way overblown, yes. But doesn’t address sugar sensitivity since the kids weren’t given any sugar in that trial.

            Also, after submitting the above, I noticed this conclusion in another paper by Wolraich from 1995:
            “However, a small effect of sugar or effects on subsets of children cannot be ruled out.”

            http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/274/20/1617.short

            Which is exactly what I am arguing.

            Cheers

    • Mark, I think you’re setting up a straw man here. I don’t recall anyone saying that no child on the face of the earth has ever had an adverse reaction to sugar. The myth is that the “sugar high” affects the general population of children. Is the myth based on a small subset of allergic children or merely on the parent’s biases? I think it’s just the biases, but I could be wrong.

      • Marshall,

        Again, I do not deny fact that the idea is way overblown. But in an earlier comment you noted:

        “I can’t accept your personal anecdotal story. The “sugar high” myth is all in your head.”

        The only way you can say this to someone about their situation is either that you’ve tested the child in question, or if you believe “that no child on the face of the earth has ever had an adverse reaction to sugar”, which you are not saying.

        Your statements don’t really jive. Which one is it? If it’s just overblown semantics on your part, then so be it. I think that sloppy language when talking about science is bad. It’s unfair to accuse someone of bias by using the opposite bias.

        Many people like to draw 100% conclusions from non-100% results. I’m just saying that this is just as biased as going the other way.

        The conclusions of these studies to date are two fold:
        1, that most children are not sensitive. But, the statistical power still leaves potentially hundreds of thousands of kids in the US that might be sensitive, so it may still be a real effect in large numbers of children. So no way we can tell anyone that it’s in their head. Not without more research.
        2, most parents who think their kids are sensitive are incorrect. This is likely due to the idea becoming mythical in the population. Still doesn’t rule out that some kids might be sensitive, and some parents might be right about it.

        • The same could be said for psychic phenomena. Because we have not tested every single human on the face of the earth and conclusively proven that none have extra sensory perception, does that mean that potentially thousands of people are psychic?

          I’ve heard plenty of anecdata on the subject. Many people certainly BELIEVE they are psychic.

          Perhaps someone with psychic abilities has already verified that Deb is incorrect about her children being sensitive to sugar. You certainly can’t prove that is not the case.

    • I am incredulous of this “finding”. I have often seen my own young children’s hyper behavior after having a modest amount of something sugary (cereal, jelly beans, and so on) at normal times of the day. My wife and I even refer to these episodes as a “cocaine buzz”.

    • Mark,

      1. I can’t accept her personal story. Even if she is ultimately correct, she didn’t use control groups, blinding, etc. I cannot accept anecdotes as evidence.

      2. Regardless of her own children, the “sugar high” myth is all in her head when she applies it to the general population. Again, she may be correct about her own children, but the myth is about how sugar affects the general population, not just a select few.

    • Sorry, not buying it either. My three kids all react strongly and predictably to sugar, but I let them have it knowing full well the tears and often mania that follow. One extremely so. These findings will be overturned in twenty years and the confidence of the naysayers will be looked at quizzically when it so contradicted a parental common sense notion. This is just contrarianism pure and simple, have fun while it lasts. Quote the studies with bravado for now, but parents are on to something. Heck, even I get sleepless after a sugary dessert, active legs and restless.

      • So why is it only American parents then?

        Other cultures don’t have the sugar myth. Are only American children affected?

    • All children are individual and have individual metabolisms and therefore may react to large amounts of sugar in unique ways.

      Sugar is a simple carbohydrate which gives a quick peak of energy and then it’s done, resulting in the “sugar crash.” This quick peak of energy is where I think people mistake it for being some type of stimulant or hyperactivity inducing substance. In actuality it is the same as other simple carbohydrates.

      From a teacher’s standpoint, the concern for cognitive functioning is not necessarily a fear of hyperactivity. When children have a breakfast full of sugar and other simple carbohydrates (poptarts, doughnuts, sugary cereals, etc.). They have their breakfast and by the time they get to school the sharp peak of energy from breakfast has left and the children are left feeling tired, foggy and confused, and/or irritable and it is difficult for them to pay attention to anything. Attention=Learning

    • Sorry, I’m not buying it. I’ve seen too may cases where kids who ate sugary breakfasts came to school hyper, while those who didn’t came to school more focused and calm. To make it clearer, I could figure out who had eaten a sugary breakfast or lunch based on their demeanor during class. It wasn’t just that a couple of kids that tended to be hyper. It was that kids who ate a were hyper on the days they ate a lot of sugar.

      Last year I had one student who literally could not sit still for a moment. So I devised a test of my own. I had all of the students catalog their diet for 24 hours and log the amount of sugar they consumed. The hyperactive student started his day with 2 bowls of Frosted flakes, orange juice, a pop-tart, and a 32 oz of Powerade. This was his typical breakfast. All told, he had been consuming close to 200 grams of sugar before lunchtime.

      So I made a suggestion to his parents: give him water instead of Powerade, and cut the Pop Tarts out. They agreed, and the very next day, he was as serene and calm as could be. His grades went up, his focus improved, and all of it was because he cut down on the sugar. On the rare occasion when he came to school hyper , I found out that those were the days when his mother let him take a few Pop-tarts to eat on the busride to school.

      Now maybe there’s an additive in sugary foods that’s the real culprit. But the “sugar myth’ exists because there is an easily observable cause -and -effect cycle with kids’ behavior and the consumption of sugary foods. It’s not just birthday parties or Halloween. Some parents strictly control sugar consumption even for Halloween. It never surprises me that the kids who had eaten the least amount of candy came to schol the least hyper.

      • Isn’t it possible or even likely that there were other factors. Why should I give more credence to your purely anecdotal evidence with a not-suprisingly narrow study base of one?

    • Guess what? I agree. Sugar might not cause ADHD. And I also agree with the same proposition that sugar might cause ADHD and other mental disorders.

      But that article … Serious lulz … “Hey guys it’s November 1, 2011 let me drop some links to observational studies (let me repeat: observational) done 20 years ago.” (It’s amusing also seeing that some of the studies he sites are only looking at temporary effects of sugar ingestion.) So here’s some other equally sketchy, inconclusive observational studies to read on the subject with opposing biases:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133757/#B1
      http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/full/96/10/1815
      http://www.springerlink.com/content/vr40331382376623/

      I guess I should go start a blog and replace the word “might” with “does” to continue confusing people. (Headline: Sugar does make your kids hyperactive!) After all, I know one person who has bipolar disorder and effectively treated her condition (now has no symptoms) by entirely eliminating sugar and carbohydrates from her diet. There are also many studies suggesting diets that entirely exclude sugars an carbohydrates show neuroprotective effects (here’s a good overview: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2367001/), so why not assume some link between brain glucose metabolism and neurological disorders such as ADHD?

      Certainly it would be difficult to even argue with logic alone that glucose is the cause of ADHD. We all know it’s one of the few essential energy sources that crosses the blood brain barrier and while there are other energy sources that do the same (notably beta-hydroxybutyrate) the brain most definitely needs certain quantities of glucose specifically to work (and thus for a human to survive*). So maybe we can’t argue that sugar (or rather the end product glucose) is in general bad for your brain.

      But let’s return our focus from the lesser understood brain metabolism to the more understood and modeled metabolic pathways of sucrose, fructose et al and the body’s hormone responses: the fact that sugars (and all carbohydrates) trigger advanced insulin responses in turn leading to obesity and type-II diabetes; the fact that fructose produces advanced glycemic end products contributing to higher LDL expressions, arterial plaque formations and metabolic syndrome; that fructose like ethanol is directly stored in the liver as fat (think fatty liver disease); that another synthesis target of fructose is uric acid (that’s right: candidate for hyperuricemia/gout); …

      … But hey despite all these well known things about the degenerative effects of sugar in our diet on our health, there is some promising “news” that sugar might not cause hyperactivity in children. Wow.

      (*) Note thought that our liver will produce glucose for us through protein synthesis, so we don’t even need it in the diet technically.

      • You really didn’t look very carefully. Before getting so sarcastic, you might want to actually check your assertions. For instance, try reading this review (emphasis mine):

        Adverse behavioral responses to ingestion of any kind of candy have been reported repeatedly in the lay press. Parents and teachers alike attribute excessive motor activity and other disruptive behaviors to candy consumption. However, anecdotal observations of this kind need to be tested scientifically before conclusions can be drawn, and criteria for interpreting diet behavior studies must be rigorous. Ingredients in nonchocolate candy (sugar, artificial food colors), components in chocolate candy (sugar, artificial food colors in coatings, caffeine), and chocolate itself have been investigated for any adverse effects on behavior. Feingold theorized that food additives (artificial colors and flavors) and natural salicylates caused hyperactivity in children and elimination of these components would result in dramatic improvement in behavior. Numerous double-blind studies of the Feingold hypothesis have led to the rejection of the idea that this elimination diet has any benefit beyond the normal placebo effect. Although sugar is widely believed by the public to cause hyperactive behavior, this has not been scientifically substantiated. Twelve double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of sugar challenges failed to provide any evidence that sugar ingestion leads to untoward behavior in children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or in normal children. Likewise, none of the studies testing candy or chocolate found any negative effect of these foods on behavior. For children with behavioral problems, diet-oriented treatment does not appear to be appropriate. Rather, clinicians treating these children recommend a multidisciplinary approach. The goal of diet treatment is to ensure a balanced diet with adequate energy and nutrients for optimal growth.

    • This reminds me of the “full moon mania” myth. Everyone thinks that their personal stories prove it to be true, but when the data is skeptically scrutinized and peer reviewed, the myth is found to be wrong.

      Is there a grain of truth to it, such as the possible link between the female cycle and the moon cycle? Maybe. But the wild extrapolations elevate the phenomena into myths.

    • Mark,

      Your asking us to prove a negative, an impossibility. You have set the bar so low for causality for this idea of “food sensitivity” there is no way to disprove it. At a 0.5 rate in the wild as it were, you can easily hide inside the folds of the placebo effect and never have to worry about hard proof again. You could have “sensitivities” right up to a 3% level and still be safely under the placebo effect.

      Many parents have a deep need for the explanation that “food “sensitivities” offer. It is a much easier thing to fix a child’s meal, than to reevaluate your parenting process. My child will behave better if I feed him/her less processed foods is a much simpler program than I have to totally rethink how I deal with my child. It is far easier to blame a bit of childish recalcitrance on a chocolate chip cookie than to try to delve into why the child is so off their norm on this particular day. Sometimes a child is difficult because they are being difficult, it is just a bad day. Your pattern seeking brain may “see” a link with processed food, but that may be nothing more than confirmation bias.

      If you want to believe that your special snowflake of a child has “food sensitivities” there is nothing hard science can do to disuade you of this notion. But be aware this notion has no more scientific validity than beleving s/he is possessed by demons. Real sensitivities have real symptoms and real scientific explanation behind them. Lactose intolerance has a testable diagnosis by measuring the sufferer’s level of lactose. Sensitivities to dyes, preservatives, and other additives? Meh, not seeing it. The issue with processed foods is that they are a poor value, have lots of empty calories, contain excessive amounts of sodium, and are a poor source of micronutrients. But the biggest problem with processed foods, especially sweet items, it that they give pleasure. Are brains are hardwired as a survival mechanism to seek, sweet, fatty and salty items because the body really needs these items to thrive in our former hunter-gatherer role. But now, well we have gotten so evolved and so puritanical in all things that are pleasurable are verboten. Highly processed food is our one guilty and legal pleasure. Can’t have that, no fun allowed. Got to keep that pleasure under control and strictly monitored. Our belief that sugar causes bad behavior has a lot more to do with our ingrained puritanical streak than any real proof. This why the myth of sugar has such staying power.

      • Of course we can’t prove a negative. Neither should we use language that seems to indicate we have done so. As scientists (or science-versed), we can delve into the methodology and draw our own conclusions about the validity of the results based on the statistics. But most people can’t. Seeing an article like this makes it seem to the layman that the link between sugar and behavior has been disproved to the point that it is impossible that anyone’s child has this behavior. No one is going to believe that, because it’s not been proven to be true 100%. The title of the original article is not correct – in layman terms. It might be statistically correct to say such a thing, but that is irrelevant in this setting, a blog that attempts to reach a wide audience. “Sugar doesn’t have an effect on the behavior of most children”, and similar in the body of the text would have been excellent. No caveats were mentioned in the article, despite being mentioned in the original references. In other words, it reads like a papal decree. “If you believe your child has sugar issues, you have sinned.” Well, maybe that’s taking it a bit far, but the point is, that type of thing will not convert anyone except the already converted.

        In his follow up to the Dish (where I saw the original link) Dr. Carroll concludes that he will likely not win this fight. I agree, mostly because this is an entrenched myth, but also because the language was not carefully chosen. To his credit, Dr. Carroll’s article was not disrespectful. There are egregious examples of condescending language used by doctors and scientists to try and debunk claims, but thankfully not here.

        Finally, I understand the need to push back hard against the myths. If you want to end in the middle and everyone is on the left, you have to aim for the right at times. So perhaps that is at play here too.

        Thanks for the discussions. And BTW, “special snowflake” ??? Nice one… ;)

    • James: “Sensitivities to dyes, preservatives, and other additives? Meh, not seeing it.”

      Really? Here’s a long list of published studies you can begin with: http://www.feingold.org/Research/dye.html

      (For some reason, they don’t include the study which has received the most press recently: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140673607613063/abstract .)

    • I love stuff like this. It is particularly depressing to have people disagree with it. I give them roughly the same amount of credibility as “young-earth” creationists. I don’t believe these studies because the disprove what I already think, and coming up with ideas is so monumentally difficult for me that I’m just going to stick with them not matter how much evidence mounts to the contrary. Thinking that the earth is 10,000 years old when there is overwhelming evidence to the country is like believe North America is 10 meters wide and children are made hyper by eating sugar. It just isn’t true.

    • Great article. I like it when the norm is challenged. It is easy too assume sugar is causing our children to run around like monkeys when kids have a lot of energy and get excited about those opportunities. We as humans are often on the search for why so we can place that label.

      Still there are plenty of good reasons kids shouldn’t digest large amounts of sugar.

    • I think it’s depressing how many of the commenters refuse to look at the data. There is no reason to assume sugar makes kids hyper, and lots of data to prove it doesn’t. Yet they still prefer their anecdotes.

    • Eating sugar increases the absorption of an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps your body make serotonin, which is a brain chemical that makes you feel content and happy. So it’s possible that eating something sweet may make you feel happy. A happy kid is usually an excited kid. excited kids mike act hyper. So I believe sugar does make kids hyper. In a neuro-chemical way.

      • That’s not how neurochemistry works.

        Also: You only can explain effects that exist. Even if there -were- some way water could be able to have emotions and give those emotional imprints to people who drink the water, it would not mean that homeopathy suddenly works better than a placebo.

    • while subing at a preschool I once had a mother tell me that the reason her child freaked out and trew a fit and kicked me was because he had syrup on his pancakes for breakfast…really? Wow… lol

    • Go to http://www.fedup.com.au you will find interesting things about sugar and the foods, like colouring, additives, saylicylates, amines, sugar, preservitives, and how they all affect us, sugar is high in salicylates, some sugars more so then others, there could be salicylate intolerance not just sugar.

      One of my children goes feral screaming kicking, defiant impatient after having sugars in things, she will be so good before, and then all of a sudden just change personality, and it’s not me a the parent upsetting her or anyone else, it’s her sitting colouring in, then jumping up and going feral, sometimes I haven’t even been right near her, no conversation between us, and she just changes to a tiger from a bird, then settles down again, depending on what it was it could take two days to get out of her system, like she had a wizz fizz lolly pop, and boy has she finally just calmed down, it could have also been colourings, my daugther reacts also to medications, just goes off with them as well, flavourings or colourings, and sugar,

      This website she Sue Dengate has just travelled around Australia, going on a special failsafe diet alot of people have change dramatically, no more rashes,no more moods, no more impatience etc.

    • This article is as garbage as the sugar we are poisoing our children with in America! My son hade two pieces of cheap grocery store bakery cake last night. He rarely eats these types of sugar (and dyes). He turned into a lunatic–screaming, kicking, crying. I had to forcibly brush his teeth and put him to bed. He was panting and confused. PLEASE! Don’t publish such trash.

    • Me and my gf are arguing about this right now as our 3 year old eats raw sugar and is acting just fine, actually finishing my coffee, acting perfectly normal

    • Just a quick question:

      If sugar ingestion has no discernible effect on mood or emotion- then why are children and adults addicted to it, and find it almost impossible to stop? (Do you really need me to give you examples??? Really? If you need proof get some fast food- or go to your local super market)

      The main trials you mention are over 20 years old. I don’t understand why you would make this argument if it were not for the current debate re sugar world wide currently.

      One must further ask- like any drug – why wouldn’t sugar cause a high biochemically?

      The reason why these trials are flawed is the same as the parents that were convinced that their children were hyperactive without sugar. That is to say that the children were observed by researchers emperically, which is the same as the parents observing their children. The difference is that the researchers came in at 50% (thus the same response if you were to roll a dice) and the pairents were preped to be uniformly bias one way or the other.

      If there is no scientific biochemical research presented it is best to find it.

      Logic is hard, I aggree.

      There is however new biochemical research which backs up the sugar high myth.

      But but by all means continue eating sugar… There are lots of vitamins and proteins in that stuff.

      All the best.