Busting the Sugar-Hyperactivity Myth


Are you convinced the reason for your son or daughter’s rowdiness lies in a box of Milk Duds? You?re not alone. Many concerned parents and health organizations believe there is a link between a child’s diet and behavior. The latest group to join the debate is the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, which recently released a report charging that the government, professional agencies and the food industry have been ignoring evidence that diet affects behavior. However, the majority of studies so far haven’t found a connection, and most in the medical industry maintain there is no known link between sugar and hyperactivity.

Still, many concerned parents feel certain they’ve seen a cause-and-effect relationship between sweets and rowdiness. Admittedly, more research would be needed to completely rule out the possibility of a link, but there are many plausible reasons other than sugar why a child may be bouncing off the walls.

Where Did the Sugar-Hyperactivity Theory Come From?

The notion that food can have an effect on behavior grew popular in 1973 when allergist Benjamin Feingold, M.D., published the Psychology showed that parents who believe a child’s behavior is affected by sugar are more likely to perceive their children as hyperactive when they’ve been led to believe the child has just had a sugary drink.

Beyond Sugar

As parents, your observations are important, and any concerns you have about your child?s diet should be explored carefully and discussed with your pediatrician. There is often much more to the story of a child’s hyperactivity than the Frosted Flakes they eat for every morning. Some factors associated with hyperactivity include:

Still Not Convinced?

If after looking at everything else in your child?s life you still feel food is causing an adverse reaction, your first step should be to consult with your child?s doctor. Extreme approaches, such as eliminating whole groups of foods, can do more harm than good. After giving your child a complete physical and studying their history, your doctor may refer you to a nutritionist or an allergist — or you might seek one out on your own.