Debunking myths: Does sugar cause hyperactivity in children?

Every parent knows what happens at a children’s party when the bowls of sweet snacks are already empty. Slightly withdrawn so far, the little ones begin to show their wild nature, bouncing off the walls and making sounds of intensity similar to that of a jet taking off. It should come as no surprise, then, that many parents consider sugar to be the cause of this turn of events.

The opinion that sweets cause hyperactivity, hyperactivity and difficulty in concentration in children has been known for a long time (in 1973, pediatrician and allergist Benjamin Feingold initiated the view that artificial colors, flavors and salicylates added to food cause hyperactivity in children). It may surprise you all the more that scientific research does not confirm it at all. This is one of the most popular health myths.

Does sugar cause hyperactivity in children?

Sugar does not cause hyperactivity and hyperactivity in children, but it may have little effect in only a few children, according to a scientific study.

An analysis of research was published in the journal JAMA in 90s, which showed that “sugar (mainly sucrose) does not affect the behavior and cognitive abilities of children”. It has not been reported that children become hyperactive or have problems with attention in any particular way after consuming sugar. Although the authors of the study, led by Dr. Mark Wolraich, noted that some subgroups of children may respond slightly more than others to sugar intake. However, these are not significant changes.

Another study showed how strong the “placebo effect” is for this popular myth. The researchers gave boys between the ages of 5 and 7 a drink sweetened with an artificial sweetener (aspartame) and then informed some mothers that their children had received a sugar-sweetened liquid. These women were more likely to rate their children’s behavior as hyperactive. In a staged game involving boys and their mothers, it was also noted that they paid attention to their children more times and kept them closer than mothers who were not told that participants had received sugar.

Scientists dealing with children’s behavior believe that the opinion about the effect of sweets on overstimulation of the child is due to coincidence. Children are more active during play, such as a birthday party, because they are excited and happy, not because they have sugar in their bodies. The presence of sweets at such meetings only strengthens the parents’ belief in its impact on the behavior of children.

Sugar, especially that added to drinks and foods, is a component of the diet that you need to be very careful about. Excessive consumption leads to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancer, so experts recommend limiting sugar to 10% of a person’s energy needs, and preferably to 5%. In a child, this limit will be 3-5 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Children’s nutritional recommendations on sugar show that:

Excessive consumption of sugar-rich foods leads to a deficiency of important nutrients: vitamins (A, E, C, B and folic acid) and minerals (e.g. calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc).

Eating too much sugar is associated with the risk of developing tooth decay. Children who eat sweets several times a day are more likely to have tooth decay and lose their teeth prematurely compared to children who consume sweets occasionally. Above all, sweetened beverages and sweets should be limited.

Children can eat sweet , fresh, unprocessed fruit and natural sugars derived from dairy products without major restrictions.



4th Professional Medical Student. Karachi Medical and Dental College.

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