The sugar high myth goes something like this: Give your kid a juice box and there’s a chance he or she will be bouncing off the walls.
As it turns out, sugar might do next to nothing for our energy levels. The assumption that giving your kids sugar will turn them into hyperactive monsters is more of a parenting urban legend than an observation based on fact. Writer Laura Geggel backed this up in a Live Science article
published on Monday, explaining that while sugar doesn’t make kids wired, it does cause parents to be hyper aware of the bad behaviour.
Though this myth-busting information is hardly new. One study published in 1994 gathered 35 young boys whose mothers claimed they were “sugar-sensitive.” Researchers gave aspartame to all the children and told half of the mothers their kid ingested a hefty dose of real sugar before releasing them outside for playtime. Unsurprisingly, the mothers who thought their children were riding a sugar high “rated their children as significantly more hyperactive,” the researchers reported. This “expectancy effect” caused the misinformed mothers to “criticise, look at, and talk to their sons more” than the control group of moms.
Paediatric researcher Mark Wolraich published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine also in 1994 that involved having parents track their kids’ behaviour while on strict, high-sugar diets. The study found that sugar did not make kids any more excitable than usual, and in fact, the high-sugar diet resulted in a “slight calming effect” more than anything.
In an interview with Geggel, Wolraich says the myth is perpetuated by the prevalence of sugar at special occasions. At birthday parties and on Halloween, children are already amped up by the prospect of having a great time, but parents associate that behaviour with the sugar—not the situation. Could an updated study involving a sugar-free, hummus-and-carrot-sticks-only birthday party finally bust this myth?
Parents have plenty to worry about now that researchers are labelling sugar as the new cocaine, but at least they can rest easy knowing sugar won’t actually inspire bad behaviour.