Science. Sometimes it can be really annoying.
US paediatrician Howard J. Bennett has just written a piece for the Washington Post shattering the myth that sugar makes kids hyperactive.
“It doesn’t,” he says bluntly. “Lots of scientific studies have been done to answer the question, and they have all reported the same thing: Sugar does not make kids overactive.”
To be honest, this is old news. More than 20 studies in the early 1990s proved there is no link between sugar and hyperactivity. But one study, in particular, showed how strongly parents cling to this belief.
The study brought together 35 boys, aged from five to seven, whose mothers claimed that sugar made them hyper. The boys were split into two groups, with one half supposedly fed a big dose of sugar and the other half fed a placebo. In fact, all the boys were fed a placebo. The mothers who were told their sons had been fed sugar kept a closer eye on their sons and told them off more, then claimed their sons were way more hyperactive. Interesting.
Nothing to do with the sugar. Sorry. Image via iStock.
But back to Bennett. He says kids tend to eat lots of sugary foods at events like birthday parties, where they get to play with their friends in a fun environment.
"It's the party atmosphere that makes them hyperactive, not the sugar," he asserts.
Bennett adds that because people have been linking sugar and hyperactivity for decades now, it's become accepted parental wisdom, even though it's not true.
"What happened with sugar is similar to the belief that kids will catch a cold if they go outside with wet hair on a chilly day. This has also been shown not to be true, but lots of people still believe it."
Bennett then goes on to deliver this bombshell.
"Now comes the bad news: Even though sugar doesn't make kids hyper, that does not mean it's good for you!"
Wow. Who knew? Thanks, Dr Bennett.
Nope, the sugar didn't make them do that either. Image via iStock.
What annoys me about this piece - apart from the fact that it's incredibly patronising - is that it's taking away one of the best excuses we have, as parents, for our kids' bad behaviour.
It's nice to be able to sit calmly at a party, watching your child gobbling a plateful of cupcakes, chasing the cat, swinging from the clothesline, having a brawl over who was holding the parcel when the music stopped and screaming out rude words to the tune of "Happy Birthday", then say to the people around you, "sugar high!" and have them all nod in agreement. It's much harder to say, "Hey, my child is uncontrollable and I have to admit, that's probably due to my poor parenting."
Okay, so the link between sugar and hyperactivity is a myth. But it's a useful one. Go find some other myths to shatter.