Sugar Makes Kids Hyperactive?

April fools! (albeit a bit late)

Despite popular opinion, sugar does not make kids hyper. 

Before you get all, "Well, when my kids have sugar they go off the wall", on me, let me point out what the majority of research on this topic says: for otherwise "healthy" children, sugar does not play a role in behaviour changes or cognitive ability [1]. However, for children who have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sugar and other foods may play a role in behaviour changes or cognitive ability [2]. 

But what about those parents that swear sugar makes their kids hyper?

It's an "expectancy effect". Let me explain using an example from the research: there are two groups of children with their mothers separated into two groups. The mothers of one group were told that their children were receiving a sugary snack, while the other group was told that their children were receiving a placebo snack (something that tasted sweet but was free of actual sugar). However, both groups received the placebo snack. The results showed that the mothers who expected their children to have consumed sugar rated their children as being more hyperactive [3]. Hence, the "expectancy effect"; parents generally expect that sugar leads to hyper kids, so they perceive their children’s behaviour as hyper.

I'm not saying that your kids behaviour doesn't change surrounding sugar intake. I'm saying it's not the actual sugar that's causing it. It's actually the birthday party, the trip to the movie theatre, or getting dressed up like their favourite superhero that changes their behaviour and causes them to have a bit more positive energy. 

I'm also not saying that sugar is a healthy option; there are many other reasons not to give your child sugar, like obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver disease to name a few. 

So, the next time your child has some sugar, don't blame the sugar for their increased mood. Blame the happy circumstances that brought about the occasional unhealthy treat. 

Thanks for reading!