Is Sugar the Real Culprit for Hyperactivity Amongst Kids?

Several studies have suggested that excessive intake of sugar can cause hyperactivity in children. However, Kristi L. King, a senior pediatric dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said that there is no evidence to suggest that sugar makes kids hyper, but it also cannot be completely ignored because sugar may have some slight effect on children’s behavior.

Some children may be more sensitive to blood sugar spikes than others. This means they are more likely to become stimulated when with sugar intake.

According to Jill Castle, a registered dietitian and childhood nutrition expert, a minor percentage of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may be more responsive to sugar, and their behavior changes when they eat it. She said such children could become more aggressive or hyperactive. She said that reducing sugar intake in the diet can be helpful for such children.

Castle said that nutrition is such an individual affair and it’s difficult to determine for sure whether or not there is a link between sugar and hyperactivity amongst all children as no one child is an exact copy of another.

The impression of a link between sugar and hyper kids goes back to the 1970s when the Feingold diet was prescribed by doctors to alleviate symptoms of ADHD. This diet may have led people to perceive that sugar is to be blamed for kids’ aggressive behavior.

In a study from the 1990s, scientists gave children a drink containing an alternative for sugar. One group of moms was told that their kids were drinking a high-sugar drink; the other group was told the truth, that their kids were consuming a sugar substitute. Mothers who were told that their kids consumed sugar rated their kids as more hyperactive, even though they didn’t consume any sugar.

King said that just the idea that their kids were consuming sugar caused moms to perceive their children as being more restless and hyper.

Although most kids don’t have sensitivity towards sugar, that does not mean sugar is good for their health. Sugary foods and beverages deliver calories without any nutrients. Also, a diet high in extra sugars throughout childhood is linked to the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as obesity and elevated blood pressure in children and young adults.

The American Heart Association recommends children between ages 2 to 18 consume less than 6 teaspoons of added sugars daily.

It is important for parents to look at ways to cut back on sweets for your children. Some ways to do so is by establishing routine meals and snacks on a schedule. When consuming foods with added sugar, it is important to pair them with protein or fiber. This will help control the blood sugar levels, and it optimizes satiety

Experts suggest including a treat as part of a snack on special occasions. Castle and King suggest combinations such as cookies with milk or chocolate with nut butter on crackers or ice cream with nuts or oatmeal crumble topping

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