It's that time of year again! The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and kids decorate their houses with ghosts and goblins in preparation for Halloween.
For parents of kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), this can be a particularly tricky time. Many people believe that sugar makes kids with ADHD more hyperactive, but is there any truth to this claim? Do junk food and Halloween candy make ADHD kids more hyper?
The Myth of the "Sugar High"
It's no secret that candy and sugary snacks are not healthy food. However, a common misconception is that sugar creates a "high" in kids that lasts for hours on end, causing them to act out and be disruptive. In reality, this so-called "sugar high" is nothing more than a myth. A 2019 study found no evidence of an association between the incidence of ADHD and sugar consumption in children aged 6-11 years old. A 2020 study analysis compiled data from seven studies that reported a positive relationship between overall sugar intake or specifically sweets + beverages leading to symptoms for those diagnosed with this disorder. When looking
at the individual category's contribution, it was noted that there may have been other factors that caused these results.
In other words, the high sugar myth is just that-a myth. So, if sugar isn't the cause of hyperactivity in children with ADHD, what is? According to Dr. Edward Hallowell, a leading expert on ADD/ADHD, "the real culprits are lack of sleep, food allergies, and low blood sugar."
Evidence that excessive sugar leads to hyperactivity comes from observation, which can be unreliable. Studies have shown that parents and caregivers who expect an increase in their child's activity level after consuming sweets are more likely to perceive them as hyperactive. Also, children usually consume a lot of sugary foods and beverages in a more stimulating environment, such as a night of trick or treating on Halloween, which can also lead to hyperactive behaviors in children.
However, while sugar may not cause hyperactivity in ADHD kids, that does not mean it's good for them. Consuming large amounts of sugar can lead to weight gain, tooth decay, and other health problems.
This Halloween, however, do not let the myth of the sugar high trick you into feeding your child too much candy. Although sugar isn't likely to make their ADHD worse, it can still lead to other health problems, and limiting your child's intake during Halloween - and all year round is still essential. Your child - and their teeth - will thank you!