Does sugar make kids hyper?

This topic came up at a kid’s birthday party a couple of weeks ago.  Growing up, I had always been told that this was, without question, a fact.  My own personal experience was quite unreliable, as I was always in a position of seeking out more sugar regardless of my current energy/attention levels.  Well, it turns out that there is a certain amount of debate about this subject, and not just from the makers of high fructose corn syrup.**

**Their current ad campaign is just fascinating to me.  High fructose corn syrup is one of those things that I’ve been told time and time again is worse for you than regular sugar; that it converts to fat faster and is more likely to stick to your tummy, thighs, and butt, or whatever.  So when the ads first came on I thought “well what moxy they have to run blatant lies on the television!”  But as I thought of it more, I wondered if the science backed them up or me.  I don’t know the answer to that question, but I at least recognize that at this point I don’t know the answer to that question instead of dismissing the question out of hand.**

So I made a quick stop out to Google.  The results were decidedly mixed.  I checked on the theory that it was actually artificial colorings that made kids hyperactive, and had some positives and negatives.  And holy crap all of this is so confusing!  Seriously?!  We can’t just have a straight answer about such an easy question?  THIS is the promise of the endless information available on the internet?

So I’m going to common-sense my way through this one, even though that likely will lead me to an answer that is not necessarily true, it will be one that I can feel confident in because I made it up entirely on my own. **  So I sat down and made a list of things that I know to be true based on my observations and experience:

**This is not generally a good way to make decisions**

1.  Kids get some kind of quick energy boost when they eat candy.

This is uncontroversial.  Honestly, I don’t care what the burst comes from, whether it’s the refined sugar, the artificial coloring, or the caffeine in the chocolate, or some kind of cocktail mixture of all of it, the fact is if you give excessive amounts of candy to kids, they will respond to it in stereotypically expected ways.

Note the crazed "candy-eyes"

2.  Kids do not seem to respond that way to fruit

My guess is that there just isn’t as much sugar in fruit as there is in candy, which seems to be true of non-chocolate candy, but chocolate-based candy seems to have about the same amount as fruit.

Note the normal eyes...he's cool as a cucumber.

3.  Sugar is not good for kids for all sorts of other reasons

This seems important to me.  It’s terrible for their teeth, absent other nutritional value (see #2) or sufficient physical activity will be converted into fat and potentially lead to obesity and/or diabetes,  and will make them less hungry for nutritional food (see Too Much Junk Food).

4.  Sugary foods are excellent for bribing children

This one is self-explanatory.

5.  I, personally, adore refined sugar and its products

See previous post on cookies.

6.  I have observed the “sugar crash” that happens as kids hyped up on candy (or food colorings) have

This can be accompanied with extreme crankiness, surliness, or other unpleasant behaviors.  However, the effect seems to be limited to the night in question and does not seem any worse than other bouts of crankiness.



**Okay, this is obviously cheating.  We did not give Mr. B candy on Halloween, this was clearly a ruse to put a cute picture of the boy in this post.  Sue me.**

My conclusion:

Kids are going to eat all sorts of stuff they shouldn’t and respond in all sorts of ways.  I think there are a lot of really important reasons to avoid too much sugar and to avoid too many artificial food additives (more than we probably realize, honestly).  Ultimately, kids are going to experience a full range of behaviors and reactions regardless of what they eat.  Some kids are more sensitive than others to these different factors.  My children do not seem to be among them, so I will not worry about it all that much.**

**Note to my children reading this in the future:  If science proves that food colorings cause cancer or some other horrible illness between the time this blog post is published and when you are adults, I sincerely apologize for my hastiness in making this decision and unwillingness to delve deeply into the scientific journals before allowing you to eat scads of Skittles, Smarties, and Sweet Tarts.**


One response to this post.

  1. We were just relecting on Jarah’s first experience with sugar the other day. It was on his first birthday in the form of a cupcake lashed with butter cream frosting. It was also the first time he ever slept through the night. Sugar crash for sure!


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