'Sugar High' Might Not Be a Real Thing ... but Don't Tell the Kids

sugar high not a real thing

We've all seen kids who are completely riled up and running wild by the end of a birthday party or Halloween. Usually, if you look closely, you'll find telltale bits of icing or sugar crystals stuck to the hands and faces of these mini-cyclones who whirl through your home with reckless abandon -- before crashing, of course. While most parents are quick to blame this behavior on that old dreaded "sugar high," researchers are now saying that theory just isn't true. Huh? 


According to Dr. Mark Wolraich, chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center, who spent the 1990s researching the effect sugar has on kids, the reaction is really due more to excitement over the occasion than what they're consuming.

But, what about the off-the-wall behavior parents see shortly after those sweet treats are devoured? Is it just a coincidence? Not exactly. Think of it more like a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

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Wolraich recently told Live Science that parents' "ideas are reinforced by seeing it in those circumstances." In his studies, the doctor revealed that moms who were told their sons had just consumed sugar were more likely to stay near their boys and criticize their behavior when compared with moms who thought their kids hadn't eaten anything sweet. 

You can't blame these moms, right? It seems like our whole lives we've been warned about the perils of too much sugar -- not only for our weight and our teeth, but also to avoid the roller coaster–like effect of taking in too much of good thing.

Yet, surprisingly, Wolraich and his colleagues concluded "that sugar does not affect the behavior or cognitive performance of children," according to a review published in the journal JAMA.

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The doctor further explained that for someone with low blood sugar, scarfing down a few cookies maybe produce a quick burst of energy akin to a "sugar high," but in someone with normal blood sugar, it really has no impact -- other than to turn to fat.

Hard to believe, right? We almost all have felt it at one time or another. You're ready for an afternoon nap until you have that slice of cake that perks you back up again. Surely, we're not imagining it, right?

That said, any parent who has ever volunteered in a classroom on Halloween knows those kids are completely wired before even the first candy corn is distributed. So maybe we do understand what Wolraich is getting at.

Still, even if these researchers are onto something, limiting sugar in little ones is probably almost always a good idea anyway, sugar high or no sugar high. 

Image via Kzenon/Shutterstock

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