Among American moms it is a truth widely acknowledged that ingestion of sweets and high sugar foods makes kids crazy. Mothers and otherwise sensible people, mouthing dietary political correctness will tell you a sugar “high,” can result from eating sweets, like ice cream, cakes, soda, and candy. If a child becomes jumpy, irritable, unmanageable or otherwise acts strangely after eating candy, it’s obviously not the kid, it’s the candy. This nasty syndrome supposedly is not limited to youngsters, but may also be manifested in adults by loopy behavior often with nervousness and the shakes.
Do sweet foods really pack a high or even a buzz? Sorry to inform you, this is a magisterial myth. If high blood sugar really pushed people “off the mainland”, what of those millions of diabetics who generally behave normally even when they occasionally suffer with wildly fluctuating blood sugars in the 150-350 (mg/dl) range? How about patients receiving glucose infusions, most of whom run sky high blood sugars for hours? I’ve never seen such patients jumping off a hospital bed. Studies conducted at Vanderbilt University and the University of Iowa found no evidence that sugar has any adverse effects on children’s behavior.
Richard S. Surwit, a medical researcher at Duke University, years ago studied sugar’s effects on volunteers in a weight-loss program. Not only did subjects lose equal weight on calorie-controlled high-sugar and no-sugar diets, he found no negative side effects. “Nobody reported any behavioral problems, any mood swings, any anxiety, any hyper-kinetic kind of behavior,” He adds, “Sugar has gotten a really bad rap…Most simple carbohydrates, like potatoes and rice, have the same metabolic effect as granulated sugar.” Yet who ever heard of a potato buzz? A rice high?
Surwit thinks the myth about sugar might have originated during World War II when, in an effort to ease the burden of sugar shortages, health officials spread a rumor that sweets promoted hyperactivity. My own theory is that the effects of low blood sugar, which can indeed cause nervousness, shakiness, and even mental changes, has been the source of confusion in the public mind. Recurrent diagnostic infatuations with “low blood sugar” as a widespread cause of depression, fatigue, and a host of other symptoms – not hyperactivity – has been a hot medical fad on and off for 60 years. (More about low blood sugar in a future newsletter.)
Despite studies to the contrary, misinformation about sugar effects persists. Candy, cookies and cakes fill the menus of birthday parties and social occasions, where people, and especially children and parents are keyed up to begin with. Is this guilt by association? “There are things in sweets that might give you a buzz, but it isn’t sugar,” Surwit said.
Copyright 2014 by Mathemedics. Inc.