Nutritional Health Foods for Kids and the Effect on Behavior

After a night of "trick or treating" the amount of sugar in children's bloodstreams is higher than normal. Any parent or elementary school teacher will tell you that sugar clearly effects children's behavior, and will give you anecdotal examples of situations that illustrate this. If you are a parent or teacher, it may surprise you to hear that the effect of sugar intake on children's behavior is a hotly debated topic in pediatrics

The belief that consumption of refined sugar can lead to behavior disturbance or hyperactivity in children is widespread. Wolraich and colleagues reviewed the literature to evaluate this purported association in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors conclude that no effect of sugar on behavior or cognitive performance in children has been proved based on studies to date. However, placebo-controlled trials have shown that parents believe sugar has a negative effect on their children's behavior, and this belief may be hard to counter. (Wolraich ML, et al. The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children: a meta-analysis. JAM 1995;274:1617-21.)

Having just witness the post Halloween frenzy of a group of five year olds that I know well, it seems hard to believe the study above. Here were a group of children who regularly play together, and though active, are rarely extreme. This Halloween evening they were running in circles around the house for a full hour, screeching and laughing and climbing all over each other and the furniture. Given that this is not the normal behavior for this group of children and given that they'd each eaten at least 4-6 pieces of candy prior to the behavior, it makes logical sense that there's a relationship.