Children love sweets and most people don’t mind a child having the occasional candy. After all, it can’t be that bad for you . . . most people grew up with chocolate bars and hard candies and turned out just fine, right?
Sugar affects your child’s brain in a tremendous way. In fact, scientists have proven that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Why is that? Because both activate dopamine (the feel-good hormone) in the brain. Like a drug, children need to ingest more and more sugar over time to get the same dopamine effect, which can result in hyperactivity, which looks very much like ADHD.
Sugar + Growing Brains = Disaster
Children’s brains are still growing at a tremendous rate and most associate childhood with learning. Normally that’s true, but with increase sugar intakes, even this is affected.
The brain produces a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is responsible for long term memory, learning, etc. Sugar depresses the production of the hormone, which results in poor memory and lessened learning capabilities. While this can affect adults to a certain extent, children who have eaten plenty of sugar throughout those essential periods for brain growth are most affected. They will likely develop memory problems in adulthood, if not their teens.
Excessive sugar intake is also associated Alzheimer’s disease, drug abuse and dementia later in life. It’s best to kick the habit early on if you can and help your children live longer, more productive lives.
Other Side Effects of Sugar
Unfortunately, sugar affects far more than just the brain. It also suppresses the immune system, which can lead to children getting sick more often. This is of particular concern during cold and flu season or when other children are ill at school.
Of course, most people are also aware that the increased amount of sweets that children eat can lead to obesity, which has its own problems. Children who are overweight are more likely to be obese adults and this can lead to a number of health issues, including diabetes, heart problems, strokes and high blood pressure.
While cutting out all sugar may not be for your family, keep in mind thatthe maximum recommended amount of sugar in the diet is just 5% of your daily caloric intake. The average per person in the US is 16% of caloric intake. Often, this is made up of sugary drinks, including sodas, juices and energy drinks, but other foods factor into this number, as well.
Sugar: Not Just for Candy
Sugar can be found in many foods . . . possibly more than you realize. It hides under the labels that you may not always recognize, including:
- Malt syrup
- Cane juice
- Corn syrup
- Barley malt
- Beet sugar
- Golden syrup
There are over 100 names for sugar, so it’s easy to sneak it into food. The best way to ensure that your children are not eating excessive amounts of the stuff is to simply prepare and offer fresh foods. Since most packaged foods contain some sort of sugar, usually in rather high amounts, it’s best to avoid these as much as possible.
You will also want to make sure that the entire family is drinking water at meal times instead of sodas and juice, which can drastically increase your blood sugar levels. Children will always prefer sweet drinks, but they can learn to drink regular water, too, particularly when parents set a good example.
Did you know how bad sugar can be for the brain? If you’re trying to raise a gifted child, how will you reduce the sugar in your diet?