Sugar Intake Impacts Attention and Hyperactivity

Sugar Intake Impacts Attention and Hyperactivity
A recent study co-authored by researchers from CARE, the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, and the New Haven Public Schools highlighted the importance of limiting sugar intake to help children's attention and hyperactive behaviors. The study subjects were 1,649 Connecticut middle school students with an average age of 12.4 years. Focus was on their consumption of energy drinks which contain sugar and often caffeine. Beyond this small sample, there are implications for children with Attention Deficit Disorder.

When checking the nutritional profile of an energy drink, the researchers found that they contained about 40 grams of carbohydrate. For comparison, most sodas contain around 39 grams of carbohydrate, and a quarter cup of sugar is 49 grams of carbohydrate. Consuming an energy drink or slurping a soda is almost like eating a quarter cup of sugar. Too much sugar can trigger inattention and hyperactivity in children. These traits are associated with negative outcomes in the classroom. Researchers found higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity associated with the larger quantities of sugar that the students consumed. Higher sugar quantities caused students to exhibit more inattention and hyperactivity. The range of energy drinks that the middle school students drank was from zero to seven drinks. The average was two.

How much sugar should a child consume? Depending on how old they are, children should consume a maximum of 21 to 33 grams of sugar daily. This is the amount that health experts recommend. How can you picture the amount of sugar in a food? One way to present this information visually to adults or children is to use the website

Sugar Stacks shows pictures, in a single serving format, of various foods with the sugar equivalent stacked beside the picture of the food serving. They use sugar cubes for comparison to sugar content. This makes it easy to compare sugar quantities in different cereals, snacks, fruits, and veggies. The visuals are great for adults and kids. They also have what they call Carrot Stacks. These compare carrots that you could eat with another food's equivalent sugar content. Did you know that you can eat four carrots and get the same amount of sugar that you would find in three Oreo cookies? It takes three pounds of carrots to equal the sugar in a 20 ounce bottle of regular soda!

Inattention and hyperactivity are hallmarks of Attention Deficit Disorder and potent reasons why many kids with ADD have difficulties in school. Ingesting large quantities of sugar exacerbates these negative symptoms of ADD. What parent would watch a child eat a half of a cup of sugar right out of the canister? Yet it is not unusual for parents to see children drink two sugary drinks each day. Let's take a multi-modal approach to treating ADD. Instead of relying only on medication and therapy, let's throw exercise and nutrition into the mix. And leave the sugar in the canister.


Yale University. "Energy drinks significantly increase hyperactivity in schoolchildren, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 February 2015. .

Sugar Stacks shows the amount of sugar, as sugar cubes, in a single serving of a food. This is a fantastic visual reminder of the sugar content of foods.
Sugar Stacks

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