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Don’t blame sugar for kids’ hyperactivity; sugar high is a debunked myth

When kids start bouncing off the walls, sugar often gets the blame. Some parents will likely find it difficult to believe but research suggests there’s no such thing as a sugar high in children.

“We couldn’t demonstrate any effect that the sugar was changing the children’s behaviour,” said Dr. Mark Wolraich, the CMRI/Shaun Walters Professor of Pediatrics at University of Oklahoma.

“I’m not necessarily promoting letting kids engorge in sweets, foods or drinks; just realize if you’re seeing the behaviour, it’s not likely due to their sugar intake,” he told Global News over the phone on Tuesday.

Wolraich and his team debunked the myth in the 1990s and the research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. For some reason, the myth seems to continue to exist among parents.

He suggests that it’s often the events themselves, like birthdays or Christmas parties, that can be more stimulating for kids.

“I have two young kids myself and I know after sugar they’re quite wound up, but I think it’s because they’re not offered it very often,” said Lesley Langille, a registered dietitian at the Centre For Family Nutrition in Calgary.

“I think it’s more that fallacy that’s it’s something out of the usual so that they get more excited about it.”

However this information shouldn’t give kids permission to overindulge. Too much sugar can cause concerns for obesity and teeth decay.

Kids under the age of two should avoid all added sugar, according to Langille. For kids older than two, added sugar should represent about 10 per cent of caloric intake, which is roughly six teaspoons.

Watch: All sugar affect your body the same way, despite the myth that certain types of sugars are better than others for your health. (June 13, 2018)

Langille’s advice for managing sugar over the holidays is for parents to model healthy bahaviour for their kids.

“I don’t think it’s possible to avoid it all, nor would I want to avoid it all. I enjoy having Christmas cookies and baked goods.

“It’s more about eating the way you want your children to eat yourself.”

She also suggests not putting treats up on a pedestal for kids, but instead treating them like regular food.

“You don’t have to say, ‘this is a special treat’ or ‘this is out of the ordinary,'” she said.

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