Why do so many parents still believe sugar makes children hyperactive?

Why do so many parents still believe sugar makes children hyperactive?

Because their parents believed it.

Because they need some excuse other then lax discipline?

“Is Beavis having some kind of a problem I should know about?”
“Uhhhh… he ate like 27 candy bars and then like drank a 6-pack of root beer!”
“Hmmmmm… that’s strange. I just read about a study that says sugar isn’t supposed to cause hyperactivity.”

Same reason they believe the tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy after overstuffing themselves on Thanksgiving.

Maybe because we can notice a direct corellation between sugar ingestion and hyperactivity? If I feed my kids ice cream, I can expect silly behavior and rambunctiousness to folow. Similar things could happen with fruit, except with ice cream they will eat more than an equal quantity of fruit.

But yeah, we don’t eat sugar before bedtime, because it’s counter-productive to winding down. I’ve noticed a cause and effect that does not happen with, say, popcorn or crackers and cheese.

I’m pretty sure our parents noticed it, too, which is why so many people think the study is bullshit.

Because there is a significant amount of anecdotal evidence, (in the form of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy), combined with a bit of confirmation bias.

It is probably true that a lot of kids react with excess activity following doses of sugar. What gets missed is that kids react to the events surrounding the handing out of cookies and ice cream and other sugary treats and confirmation bias tends to cause the memory of the sugar to outweigh the memories of the events.

Unless you have an actual citation that there is some connection between “lax discipline” and those parents who specifically connect sugar consumption with excess activity, you would do well to leave the snide comments out of this thread where they are going to cause unnecessary anger and disruption.

Off the top of my head I also suppose it could be that kids like sugar, so eating sugar makes kids happy and excited , and happy/excited kids are more rambunctious.

Is there a study we’re talking about?

Because if you don’t read the studies that prove it doesn’t, it seems very plausible. I mean, the times when kids act crazy (and adults tolerate it with a ‘haha, sugar rush’) are usually special occasions, which in our culture is always coupled with copious sugar ingestions.

Yes, unlike, say, the controversy over when a child should be fed peanuts, whether sugar makes kids hyperactive or not is of little consequence. If candy deficiency was causing long-term health effects in the children of misinformed, hyperactivity-averse parents we might see a push for more public awareness, but I don’t think that will ever be the case.

I have not actually read the studies. I have read the results summarised in other places. This board is about fighting ignorance. I do not think there is any scientific doubt concerning that it is a myth that sugar makes kids hyperactive.
What I am interested in knowing is in spite of this research why do so may people still believe the myth.
Answer taken from another forum - "One study from 1994 provides an answer to that question. In The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Daniel Hoover and Richard Milich tested thirty-one boys ranging in age from 5 to 7 years old whose mothers described them as “behaviorally affected by sugar.”

The boys were split into two groups. In one, the mothers were told that their sons would be fed extra-sugary Kool-Aid. In the other, the mothers were told that their sons were the control group and would be given a drink with aspartame. In reality, both groups were given the artificial sweetener. The researchers then videotaped the mothers and sons playing together. Afterwards, the mothers were given a survey about how they thought their son had behaved.

Predictably, the mothers who believed their sons were in the “extra-sugary” group claimed their boys exhibited symptoms of hyperactivity. The researchers also noticed that these mothers tended to hover over their sons and be more critical of their behavior. By contrast, the mothers in the “aspartame-only” group seemed to get along better with their children."

There is some useful info. Let’s have some people give useful info and insights here.


I never got why people said that. I eat sugar now, and it doesn’t make me crazy. It didn’t work that way as a kid either. Others have mentioned that maybe it’s special occasions–or maybe having the candy itself is a special occasion so the kids get excited? If eating ice cream is a rare treat maybe they will literally scream for ice cream. When I was growing up sugary food wasn’t super rare so I’d eat it and it would be food like any other.

Oh, if only it were true of adults! :slight_smile: Alas, most of the things that make us hyperactive are illegal.

And how do you propose to get answers to this? Take a poll of people and ask them, hey, why do you beleive this even though you’re wrong? Most people don’t beleive stuff for no reason. I gave the reasons I thought of.

If what you’re saying is that kids like ice cream and sugary snacks, and that makes them excited, then the sugar is STILL causing the hyperactivity, even if it isn’t a result of ingestion.

Before I had my daughter I was in agreement with the OP. I still wont say for sure one way or another, but I’m beginning to suspect those studies are flawed in some way. Maybe in fact, it is not specifically sugar that triggers hyperactivity, but the sweet flavor. I’ve seen my daughter go from normal to bouncing off walls after sugar. It’s not data, it’s not controlled and its anecdotal. It’s still a significant change, that I really did not expect to see.

I say the jury is out on this one.

No, your actions are what makes them excited when you make the giving of sugared foods an event. They would react the same way if you gave them sugar-free ice cream, as long as you didn’t tell them before hand.

Kids get excited over being given treats. I dunno if it is the case that “sugar makes kids hyper” - I read that studies disprove the notion, and I do not disbelieve the science - but what is missing from the scientific studies is the subjective effect on the child of getting a treat, as opposed to the objective, physical effect of the ingredients in that treat.

So to answer the OP - parents believe the “sugar makes kids hyper” theory because it fits with what they, personally, observe. The fact that the hyper-ness might be caused by the fact of getting a treat, as opposed specifically to the sugar, is not something your average parent can test, and in any event doesn’t matter much to them.

I do not think that it is all subjective on the parent’s part.

This seems like a poorly designed experiment. It appears to have studied the mothers’ behavior patterns more than the children’s.

A more legitimate blind test would have been to have given half a group of children a sugared drink and the other half of the group an unsugared drink. Then allow neutral observers to indicate which children they felt were having a “sugar rush”. If there is no discernable difference in the behavior of the two groups, I feel that would validate the conclusion that sugar doesn’t affect behavior.