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Myth or Fact: Sugar Makes Children Hyperactive

Posted Date: 6/26/2014

Is sugar making your kids bounce off the walls? Parents have long blamed sugar for causing hyperactivity – typically characterized by increased movement, impulsiveness, distractibility, and decreased attention span. The link between sugar and hyperactivity began in the mid-1970s when a doctor removed food additives such as dyes and artificial flavors from children's diets because he claimed it reduced hyperactivity. Sugar was then grouped under the category of food additives, thereby creating the popular belief that sugar causes hyperactivity.

"Normal intake of sugary foods should not make kids hyperactive," says Dr. Svetlana Ten, Director of Pediatric Endocrinology. Refined (processed) sugars may have some effect on children's activity since it enters the bloodstream quickly and produces rapid fluctuations in blood glucose levels, thus triggering adrenaline. "Higher adrenaline levels can be similar to symptoms associated with hyperactivity," says Dr. Ten. Falling adrenaline levels can sometimes bring on a period of decreased activity as well. Children with attention deficit-hyperactive disorder (ADHD) may metabolize sugar differently, which could possibly aggravate an existing behavior disorder.

Numerous studies have been conducted and have found that there is no evidence that sugar consumption can make a child with a normal attention span hyperactive. The National Institute of Health debunked the myth in 1982 by announcing that no link between sugar and hyperactivity had been scientifically proven. Although it may not cause hyperactivity, sugar consumption should be limited to decrease a child's risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cavities.

Verdict: False.

Dr. Svetlana Ten
Pediatric Endocrinologist

Dr. Svetlana Ten is the Director of Pediatric Endocrinology. Dr. Ten specializes in pediatric diabetes. She worked for 8 years as a pediatric endocrinologist in Belarus. Additionally, she has worked with children exposed to radiation from Chernobyl. Dr. Ten is trained in highly specialized ultrasound techniques to examine the thyroid and other endocrine organs.
To make an appointment, call (718) 283-7500.
For more information, click here.

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