Many experts believe that the consumption of processed sugar contributes to
hyperactivity, irritability, lack of concentration, and aggression. Others
claim that sugar causes no such ill effects. Let's look at the facts.
Refined sugars are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream causing a burst of
energy. This triggers the release of endorphins, natural opiates, which create
euphoric feelings. During this temporary high, blood sugar level escalate.
The body recognizes the situation as an emergency and stimulates the pancreas
to produce insulin which shuts down the production of glucose (the fuel of the
brain). This sudden release of insulin causes blood sugar to plunge to below
normal levels. Once your child crashes, her body compensates by releasing
stress behavior. She may also experience hunger and weakness which causes a
craving for yet another "hit" of sugar to compensate for low sugar levels.
The body releases stored up sugar in the liver, creating a hormonal
roller-coaster of hyperactivity, anxiety, and irritability. Children with
compromised attachment often crave and hoard sugar products. Parents find
candy wrappers under the bed. They eat sugar straight from the packet.
They never seem to get enough.
Our diets affect our brains, and therefore our thinking and behavior. A child's
brain has about two to three times the energy needs of an adult brain. The brain
has no storage capacity for energy. Remember, glucose is the fuel of the brain.
The released insulin shuts down the body's production of glucose. If the supply
of energy is inadequate for even a short period of time, then the limbic system
always wins. The limbic system governs our emotions and the fight, flight,
or freeze response. The cerebral cortex must compete for the remaining glucose.
The limbic system always wins. The limbic system governs our emotions and the
fight, flight, or freeze response. The cerebral cortex is responsible for
important functions such as decision making, information processing, and
regulation of empathy and compassion. The area of the brain which controls
thoughtfulness, learning, and rational behavior shuts down and converts all the
energy to the area of the brain that controls rage, depression, and excesses.
Research shows that there is a significant drop in violent behavior when sugar
consumption is decreased or eliminated. (Howard, 1994.)
Two hundred years ago the average American ate less than 10 pounds of sugar
per year. We now consume a world-leading 137.5 pounds per year. (Atkins, 1992.)
Most of our processed foods and soft drinks are loaded with sugar. An average
25% of our total calories are "empty," devoid of vitamins, minerals, enzymes,
and other important nutrients necessary for healthy growth and development.
(Conrad, 2003.) Refined sugar actually depletes the body of B vitamins, zinc,
and chromium. When scientists in a lab want to cultivate germs they put them
in sugar. Germs love it. This is why sugar causes tooth decay and stomach
problems. (Cross, 2002.)
Some children appear to handle sugar better than others. Children whose brains
have experienced the insult of early compromised attachment may be more
susceptible to the ill effects of sugar consumption. They already have high
arousal levels and an impeded ability to self-regulate. Sugar literally
adds fuel to the fire.
As parents, we must be careful about rewarding good behavior with sweets. We
have a tendency to equate love with sugar. We call our loved ones honey, sugar,
and sweetie. We give candy on Valentine's Day to express our endearment. From
the moment they come home from school many children have access to highly processed
"junk food" and sugar laden soft drinks. The consequences for our children's
health in the past generation have been dramatic. Type 2 Diabetes, high blood
pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity, diseases associated with aging, are
now increasingly common in children as young as elementary school. (Mitchell, 2005.)
The best sugars for these children are the ones that take longer to digest such
as the fructose contained in fruit and honey and the lactose found in dairy
products. These forms of sugar don't enter the bloodstream as quickly yet still
provide a steady source of energy. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains,
whole grain versions of crackers, unsweetened cereal, and past, as well as
potatoes are some other healthier choices. Provide plenty of fresh fruits
and vegetables. Nibbling on better foods every two to three hours helps in
preventing your child's blood sugar from slipping down too low or too
rapidly. (Smith, 1976.)
Misbehaves in Public
Child Won't Eat
Effects of Sugar