Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sugarcoating ADHD: The Love-Hate Relationship

From birth, children prefer the taste of a sweet solution over a salty or bland one. After a child’s first taste of a sweet candy, they seem to develop a single-minded aim to attain more of the sticky substance. Children are attracted to sugar like bees to flowers. And with good reason.

It seems that science now confirms that our bodies are wired to crave sugar. A study conducted at the University of Washington and published in the American journal Physiology & Behavior found that children whose blood work revealed the presence of a chemical that indicated they were undergoing a growth spurt tended to prefer sweet drinks while those who were not growing as fast chose less sugary options. Researchers theorise that chemical messengers tell the brain to gravitate toward the higher calorie drinks to provide energy for cell division and proliferation.

While it’s true that children need a high-calorie diet to develop the myriad of nerves, muscles, bone and tissue they need to grow into strong, healthy adults, simple sugar is not the hero we might like it to be.

In a study published in the journal Neuroscience, researchers found that consuming a diet high in fat and refined sugar reduced a chemical linked to learning and memory retention. The study concluded that diets high in fat and sugar, such as those that include a daily supply of cookies, white bread, sweets, soda and ice cream, reduced the subjects’ ability to learn and remember. While we may be quick to label a child with ADHD, we would do well to look at their diets first.

Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the body’s ability to ingest nutrients and remove harmful bacteria was impaired for up to five hours after eating a 100g portion of carbohydrate from glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice. That means that for several hours after eating a high-sugar food, your child’s body has less capacity to fight off infection. Thus, restricting sugar intake during the cold and flu season may be even more important.

As with most things, moderation is the key. Most people love sugar but logic suggests that we reserve it for an occasional indulgence. I wonder if we viewed sugar as an occasional poison, rather than an occasional treat, if we would make different choices for ourselves and our children.


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