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Study: Sugar 'high' a myth

Dread holiday parties because the goodies served set your child off like a rocket? Are you sure sugar is to blame for those meltdowns?

Many parents believe sugary foods make children overactive or "hyper.'' But is there really such a condition as a sugar high?

The answer is no: Despite the fact that many parents swear sugar turns their kids into whirling dervishes, more than 20 studies show that it no effect on behavior. Sugar does not produce hyperactivity, even when researchers have specifically focused on children with a presumed "sugar sensitivity.''

In 1995, the Journal of the American Medical Association ran a survey of 23 comparatively rigorous studies conducted between 1982 and 1994. No discernible relationships were found between sugar ingested and how kids acted.

Other causes: Kids tend to eat gobs of sugar at parties, where they'd go wild anyway. It may also be a matter of perception. In one study, the children were divided into two groups. The mothers of one group were told their children drank a sugary drink. The other mothers were told their kids had a sugarless drink. All children had actually been given a sugarless drink. The mothers who thought their children had consumed sugar rated them as more hyperactive than the other mothers.

Hold the sweets: There are plenty of other good reasons to limit children's consumption of sugar-laden food, including risks for obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cavities. In modest amounts, sugar is OK in a child's diet, but many kids get too much, too often. Sugar-rich foods tend to be full of empty calories and often displace nutritional food. A recent landmark study of more than 3,000 infants and toddlers found that close to half of 7- to 8-month-olds are already consuming sugar-sweetened snacks, sodas and fruit drinks, a percentage that increases dramatically with age.