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Sugar and Kids Behaving Badly ….by Ehgosa Imasuen

If there is one thing readers have noticed about my blog, it is that I thrive in being counter-intuitive. Today’s post will not be any different.

This article is for any parent who has sat through the aftermath of a birthday party, the cakes, the sugary drinks, the candy, and the children. The children turn hell raisers; noisy, disruptive, inattentive, hyperactive.

When my kids started school a year ago—it is a quaint little place, ten in a class, strict, nice—the proprietor gave us a list of foods she frowned upon in the school. We were to cut down on these: refined sugars, processed fruit juices, sugary drinks, and candy. This was great advice. Too much refined sugar is bad for you; it puts a strain on your ability to digest and metabolise it, and has been shown to be risk factor for the future development of diabetes, obesity, and associated problems. She did give these reasons but the primary one was that it affected the children’s behaviour. Now this is something I know to be wrong.

Experts say the notion that sugar causes children to become hyperactive is by far the most popular example of how people believe food can affect behaviour, especially among young children. But the fact is that sugar may actually be an innocent victim of guilt by association. Studies have shown that parents who feel that their children have had sugar automatically perceive their behaviour as hyperactive, and disruptive, even when no real change in behaviour could be measured scientifically. If the parent was left blind to what the child had had, they could not predict or associate the child’s behaviour with sugar intake.

What psychiatrists now assume is that the context of the sugar intake; parties, friends, excitement, may be the real reason for the perceived change in behaviour. Humans are very good at equating association with causality. Because two things happen together doesn’t mean that one causes the other. And this is where intuition can go awry. Every single fibre of your being tells you that when your child has had refined sugar he goes hyper. But the studies do not back this up. But where did the history come from? The idea that food might have an effect on children’s behaviour first became popularized in the 1970s by Benjamin Feingold, MD, an allergist who published the Feingold diet. He advocated a diet free of more than 300 food additives and naturally occurring salicylates found in plants and many fruits and vegetables to treat hyperactivity.

Since then, many studies have looked at the issue of food additives and hyperactivity. Most of these studies have failed to substantiate Feingold’s claims or have shown only a mild benefit in a small number of children with ADHD. And Feingold’s diet would have been helpful, if it was practicable; it banned the very foods that children like. And any parent who has had to fight off a three-year-old’s temper tantrum knows this simple truth: the little tykes always win.

There is a real condition called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If you perceive that your child’s behaviour is disrupting family life or affecting their performance in school, it may be a symptom of a bigger problem, such as a conduct disorder or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and should be evaluated by a mental health professional.

But know this today; limiting your child’s sugar intake will not hurt, but it will not AFFECT the child’s behavior either.

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