Sugar, sugar, sugar!

 

Browsing parenting magazines is a favorite hobby of mine.  Theres not many that I consistently agree with, but nor are there many parents I consistently agree with.  Some articles annoy me and occasionally some thoroughly piss me off.  But most of these are simply differences of opinion, and societal programming.   You know, stuff like “Americans let their kids cry it out and stop breastfeeding at 6 months because Americans value independence!”

…right.  I’m sure all the co-sleeping tribal kids that breastfeed til the age of four end up very insecure and irresponsible. 

However, this is the first time I’ve been driven to rebut something I read in a parenting magazine.  In the July Issue of Parents, they stated “Some studies have found that small amounts of sugar can increase a child’s focus and calmness (but it’s still smart to limit sweets since they’re typically low on nutrients).”  This is in a health Q & A with the question “Does sugar cause hyperactivity?”  Their answer is simply “No.”, stated as if there is no other possibilities, no matter what.

Okay, for a start.  It’s a known fact that people with autism and autism spectrum disorders (which includes such common disorders as ADHD), are sensitive to sugar, especially as children.  In these children sugar certainly does cause hyperactivity, as well as poor processing and even more limited self-control than usual.  They’re also frequently sensitive to artificial coloring and preservatives, substances that are often found in high-sugar foods and beverages.

foodforthebrain.com has a full list of disorders and the food sensitivities that accompany them, with lots of references to many, many different studies.  Many of the disorders, including autism, ADHD, bipolar, depression and schizophrenia are all listed as sensitive to sugar.

I’m aware schizophrenia is fairly rare in children (it normally manifests in the teen years), but the diagnoses of autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder and depression for young kids are steadily on the rise.  I’m not necessarily saying all these diagnoses are accurate.  I’m of the opinion that the pharmaceutical companies have a huge impact on diagnoses, and schools do receive money for each high-needs child they have enrolled, which might make things get rounded up here and there.

However, we must consider how many of these kids just had sugar sensitivities to start with, which resulted in behavioral issues and thusly, diagnoses of ADHD?  There is very few foods you can say across the line “These cause no behavioral problems at all!”  if someone wrote in asking about bread, I would expect any decent parenting magazine to put in a disclaimer saying that while many kids are not impacted by bread, there are also kids with wheat allergies who will exhibit behavioral problems if exposed to wheat.

In the magazine they say that the study saying sugar causes hyperactivity  was published more than 30 years ago.  What about the study published in October, 2009 saying children who eat candy on a daily basis were more likely to be convicted of a violent crime by the time they’re 34?  (you can read about that one here)

Yes, sugar is empty calories, but don’t try to say that’s the only reason to avoid it.  That just glosses (or should I say glazes?) over the problem.  The problem is that sugar and candy and soda are treated like such normal, natural parts of children’s lives.  They make candy EVERYTHING.  Candy bugs!  Candy jewelry!  Candy cigarettes.  Even (how cute) candy binkies.  Candy baby bottles.

Hypoglycemia (a disorder they now frequently call “pre-diabetes” because it’s very rare that someone with hypoglycemia doesn’t end up diabetic) is on the rise, especially among children.   It’s when your body cannot handle sugar properly.  So when you eat sugar, your blood sugar levels spike, causing hyperactivity, jitteriness and poor self-control.  Then your pancreas sends out a large amount of insulin, larger than needed, which makes your blood sugar plummet.  This results in lethargy, depression and disorientation.

Sound like your kid after a big sugar binge?  Every parent knows about “the crash”.  What they might not know is that this is a result of low blood sugar, which means your child’s body is releasing excesses of insulin, and after too many of these “crashes” that poor little pancreas is going to get burned out, and your kid is going to end up having to shoot up their insulin.

Now, I’m not doctor.  I’m not a scientist.  I’m a mother, and someone who developed hypoglycemia as a child.  (If you think you or your kids might be hypoglycemic, or want to know more about it, check out What Is Hypoglycemia which has good info, and a test.)  This is my blog where I use my right to free speech to put my opinions, life-experience and research out there.  Don’t base your opinions on what I say, look into it yourself.

I’m not going to say that my kids never have sugar.  I use sugar occasionally when baking, I just usually cut in half from what the recipe says.  if someone else makes a sugary treat, or offers The Wizard a piece of candy, he always asks me if it’s okay, and 90% of the time I say yes.  But those times don’t happen all that frequently, and he doesn’t have any disorders or issues that seem to be triggered by sugar.  So why do I limit him?

Much like peanuts or eggs, sugar is something your body can develop a reaction to.  With peanuts or eggs, it’s exposure in early childhood that can cause an allergy to develop, because your immune system reacts to them, and after early exposure, sometimes a childs immune system can see them as a serious threat, and over-react as an allergy.  After your child is a certain age, the immune system is mature enough, and allergies don’t usually develop.

However, with sugar, it’s not the immune system reacting, it’s the pancreas.  So there’s not a time when the risk ceases to exist.  It really depends on the individual person, the individual pancreas and liver, as well as the frequency and level of exposure.  As with most things though, the highest risk is in infancy.  Also, a “sweet tooth” is something that’s developed.  If you don’t give your baby sweet foods, they won’t have the same taste for them as a child who was raised on sweets, and you’ll have a much easier time keeping sugar out of them later on.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty.  Like I said, my home is not a sugar-free zone.  I try to limit it though, and I think saying that sugar cannot cause hyperactivity in children is very closed-minded and irresponsible.  It might take a little extra work to cut back the sugar in our children’s diets, but there are lots of alternative sweeteners.  (And no, I’m not talking about Splenda.  It’s made from sugar, and the only real difference is a cut in calories.)

Personally, I like agave.  There’s also stevia, or fructose.  Many, many options.  Search it online.

And congratulations to Parents magazine for an awesomely irresponsible FAIL on giving out researched, thorough and concise information to their subscribers, some of whom are likely parents of kids with sugar-sensitive disorders.  Way to suck at life.  Feel free to criticize them at Parents.com!

-Domestic Anarchist