Fact Check: Does High Sugar Intake Lead to Hyperactivity?


Florencia Giraudo, Staff Writer

What comes to mind when you hear the words “Christmas,” “Hanukkah,” or “New Years”? Candy, desserts, sweets, and sugar rushes, perhaps? During each of these holidays, Americans consume absurd amounts of sugar. For example, on Halloween, children eat an average of 3 cups (around 384 grams) of sugar.

With this large intake of candy, many parents limit their children’s consumption of sweets during Halloween and other holidays, reasoning that they might get too hyper in one night. But is that true? Is the so-called “sugar rush” a myth?

Parents tend to believe that sugar is the primary cause of hyperactivity (perhaps due to sugar’s role as a stimulant of the central nervous system), studies have shown otherwise. For example, a 1994 experiment carried out by Dr. Hoover at the University of Kentucky demonstrated that sugar has no connection to children’s hyperactivity levels.

Dr. Hoover’s study used two groups, each consisting of male patients from the ages of five to seven. One group was not given sugar and their mothers were notified. The second group was also not given any sugar, but their mothers were told that they had consumed sugar. Results showed that for the second group, mothers rated their children as “significantly more hyperactive.”

Furthermore, the American Medical Association (AMA) did a study in 1994, which showed that, in reality, parents believed that their children were hyperactive not because of their actions but because they had consumed candy. In 1995, the AMA executed a large meta-analysis and found that “there was no link between sugar and hyperactivity.”

Thus, parents’ perception of sugar as a hyperactivity agent is rooted in rumor, not science. Instead of telling their children that they should not eat candy, desserts and sweets  because they will go crazy, parents should instead tell their children a real answer: candy can negatively affect children’s teeth and has a lot of empty calories while containing no essential nutrients, which can lead to high cholesterol, Type II diabetes, and other chronic diseases.