Mounting evidence shows that parent's big nemesis - sugar - doesn't make children hyperactive, Colorado State University researchers said Thursday.
In reviewing the growing number of national studies on sugar's effect on children's behavior, Lee Rosen, assistant professor of psychology, and graduate student Julie Beyers, found that no controlled experiments have revealed a link between sugar and hyperactive children."Many parents of hyperactive children are greatly disturbed by their children's behavior, and they would like to find a simple solution like sugar for their kids' behavior," Rosen said. "But numerous well-designed studies show food and sugar don't cause hyperactivity."
Rosen studied the behavior of 30 preschool and 15 elementary schoolchildren. He found no association between sugar and major changes in children's behavior.
To study sugar's effect on 17 preschool children, the two psychologists gave children juices with high or low sugar concentrations. Even when the children were given juices with 1.75 ounces of sugar in 4 ounces of fluid, the sugar didn't trigger any hyperactivity, the researchers said.
Rosen said sugar has received a bad rap from parents and others because kids often are over-excited on holidays, birthdays and special events at which sugary treats are consumed.
"On Halloween or Christmas, for example, parents might attribute their kids' activeness to sugar. But it might be more their excitement over the events and the holiday atmosphere," Rosen said.
Parents of hyperactive children may need professional counseling so they can learn ways to deal with their children's behavior, Rosen said. Parents often find it easier to blame sugar for their kids' problems rather than examining their skills as parents or their children's deep-seated problems.
"Hyperactivity is such a catch-all category for kids' behavior," Rosen said. "It's hard to specify who is hyperactive and what may cause it."
For instance, some children may be biologically predisposed to hyperactivity and have temperamental dispositions at birth that put them at risk for future hyperactivity, Rosen explained.
"Some kids are just more willful, and parents may need to learn some new parenting skills," Beyers said. "Parents can better control hyperactive kids if they consistently reward them at appropriate times and discipline them when necessary.