My two-and-a-half year old son is already sizing up bags of candy in the aisles at the grocery store, telling me we should probably buy them to stock up. And he’s rehearsing in his little mind how he’s going to trick-or-treat. At the end of Sunday night’s Halloween festivities, we will no doubt have a mountain of sweets in our house.
In the run-up to Halloween, it’s apropos to say that — contrary to popular belief –sugar does not get your little one wound-up.
Over 20 double-blind placebo controlled studies have been done on the question of sweets and their effect on behavior and hyperactivity. It’s been shown across all this research, that there is no difference between kids’ behavior when they’ve had a dose of sugar and when they’ve had none.
So why do we think sweets make for hyperactivity?
Studies show that our expectations have a lot to do with it. When researchers tell a mom that her kid has been given a sugary drink (when it’s really water, for example), they are more likely to rate their kid’s behavior as “hyper” than when they are told it’s not sweetened.
Barbara Strupp, professor of nutritional science at Cornell University, says that she thinks it has to do with context, too. We give kids cake at parties and candies on exciting holidays like Halloween — times when the environment already makes for high energy. Especially if they are a forbidden fruit, the special occasions when our kids do get sweets are sure to make them extra high-spirited.
There are lots of reasons not to make sugar a regular part of your kid’s diet (like obesity and tooth decay), but making them into a jumping bean is not one of them.
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