It is commonly accepted that sugar is the driving force of hyperactivity in children and embodies the recovery of the afternoon. Yet, there is no scientific evidence to support this idea: the "sugar rush" is not a thing.
Ask any parent, and they will not deny it: when you give candy to a child, it's like signing them to a parkour tournament. They run, they jump, they shout, they make endless wheels. This is the ultimate test of the patience of any adult. It is not surprising, therefore, that many parents only give treats to their children as occasional treats.
The theory that sugar can boost your energy and mood is not new. For decades, we've been looking for sweet snacks to spend a long day or brighten up after a heart attack. But is that really how sugar works, or is it all in our heads? Experts say that all this is conjecture.
The link between sugar and hyperactivity
The 1970s were the first time that sugar was related to behavior. The allergist Benjamin Feingold has created his eponymous elimination diet to prevent hyperactivity in children. Even if you do not know his name, you probably know some of the concepts of the Feingold elimination diet. He thought that one could relieve or even eliminate the symptoms of ADHD by avoiding food additives such as artificial colors and flavors. Feingold never formally banned sugar, but the mention of sweeteners was enough to raise fears of a link between sugar and behavior.
Parents became vigilant and the candy makers felt threatened. Scientists, on the other hand, were skeptical.
It was not long before things happened. The first to refute the existence of the sugar rush was the National Institutes of Health in 1982. Then a report in the medical journal Nutrition and health concluded that claims that sugar had adverse effects on children were scientifically unfounded.
Many studies conducted in the 1990s confirmed these claims. Two experiments tested the effects of aspartame and artificial sweeteners on children with ADHD, and gave no significant results.
One particularly interesting study hinted at a theory that the sugar rush was simply the materialization of parental fears, leading to parental mismanagement and, possibly, hyperactive children.
In 1994, researchers recorded on video 35 mothers interacting with their children. All women claimed that their children were sensitive to sugar. They were divided into two groups. One group was informed that sugar had been given to their children and the other to their children did not have received everything. In fact, all children received a placebo without sugar.
Mothers who reported higher rates of hyperactivity in their children were those who thought they had received sugar. In addition, they acted according to their scary expectations. This group of mothers stayed closer to their children and criticized and talked to them more than usual.
The following year, a meta-analysis of 16 high quality studies on link between sugar consumption and ADHD in children found no significant effect on behavior or cognitive performance. The idea of a sugar rush has been officially declared a myth.
Yet belief in this remains strong.
What does modern science say
New research confirms what we have already said. Recently, British and German scientists conducted a study based on data collected from 31 previous articles. In addition to corroborating what the experts said in the '90s, they also discovered that not only does sugar not affect mood, but it also decreases alertness and increases fatigue. here are the opposite effects that we tend to associate with sugar. The results of a study of 2017 were perhaps even more surprising because they link between sugar consumption and common mental disorders and depression.
So why are some people always suspicious of sweets, especially for their children? And why do some people still rely on a sweet snack to support them all day? A potential cause could be successful marketing. Once an idea is instilled in the public, it is difficult to change it. This could also be the case with the Feingold diet.
This belief seems to have a psychological aspect, as suggested by the "fear of parents" theory in the 1994 study. If you are told over and over again that sugar gives you a high profit, you will base your actions on these. expectations and a common association. You will eat sweets when you need energy and you will have the anxiety of seeing sugar-eating children.
Some experts think that we tend to give sugar to children who are already ready to be hyperactive, like at a birthday party or at the park. They rub shoulders with other children and eat foods they do not normally eat – two perfectly normal reasons for them to be already excited.
So, sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children and does not make you more alert. But it's still a good idea to avoid it, if possible. Sugar contributes to weight gain and can cause a wide range of major health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.
Although it does not have the desired effects, limiting your sugar intake is a good idea – healthy.