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The truth about sugar

According to the NHS Change 4 Life Programme our children are eating an extra 2800 sugar cubes a year which is more than double the recommended guidelines. That is a massive 8 cubes too many a day!

If your child starts the day with sugary breakfast cereals then it is likely that you’ve already reduced their ability to focus and stay calm before they have even arrived at school.

Why it is important to reduce your child’s sugar intake

Maintaining blood sugar levels is an important factor in helping your child with focus, mood and behaviour. Most adults have experienced that ‘hangry’ feeling where these three things fall to the wayside in lieu of eating food now. Children have a much higher metabolism than adults do and will burn through their food much quicker which is why it is important to stick to whole foods and a low-glycaemic diet* as much as possible.

*A low-glycaemic diet means consuming carbs that are low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate raises our blood sugar. Low-GI foods cause blood sugar to rise slower than high-GI foods.

Glycaemic Food Index

Recent Research

A study at Yale University School of Medicine in America noted that children are sensitive to fluctuations in their blood sugar. As the body recognises that sugar is a quick source of fuel for the body, it is fast-tracked into the bloodstream. Consuming a high amount of sugar can cause a rapid shift in a child’s blood sugar which, in turn, can affect the behaviour of the child.

In this study, a group of healthy children were given a large amount of sugar on an empty stomach. A group of young adults were given a similar sugar dose adjusted for their body size. Within hours, the children were showing large amounts of adrenaline in response to a blood sugar drop, or what we might call a sugar crash. We know adrenaline can cause over excitement, anxiety, loss of focus and shakiness. Most of the children in this study reported these symptoms. The adults saw a slight increase in adrenaline but nothing in comparison to the children.

So, even though research is still inconclusive as to whether sugar increases hyperactivity in children, we can see from these results that children have a more intense response to changes in blood sugar than adults.

Slow Energy Release

When your child was a baby, your whole focus was on what they consumed on a daily basis. As your child grows, it is important to continue to provide the right balance of foods to help them learn and develop. The University of Swansea, Wales has linked foods with a slower release in energy (your Low GI Foods) with better cognitive performance and a slower spike in blood sugar levels.

By understanding the effect that food has on your child’s body you can control crash type behaviour like having a full scale meltdown in the supermarket!

Back to sugar

We are not suggesting you stop your child eating sugar altogether. But there are ways of minimising the sugar highs and lows. Here are some good examples:

  • Ensure your sweeter items have protein, fibre or good fats to slow down digestion. For example, choose a Wholemeal Blueberry Muffin instead of a Chocolate Donut.
  • Switch chocolate sweets for nuts or raisins covered in dark chocolate or yoghurt.
  • Top a wholemeal bagel with protein packed peanut butter for a snack rather than white toast and jam.
  • If you are heading to a child’s party, make sure a well-balanced meal is consumed before you break out the birthday cake.
  • Cake bars like ‘Barney Bears’ have stormed the supermarket shelves and profess to be healthy. These cake bars can have up to 3 sugar cubes so just swap them out for fruited teacakes or malt loaf – easy.

Remember, children look up to their parents as role models so it is worth ditching the fizzy drinks and biscuits altogether – you might even feel the benefits!