If you're looking for the page on children turning down sugary food, it's here:
True Tales of Kids Turning Down Sweets


Sugar as a scary substance

Deb Lewis, February 21, 2012:
There’s some growing evidence that sweets are good for kids. Sugary foods provide quick calories and energy for the high energy demands of a growing body. And at least one study suggests that sugary foods help children feel better, reduce pain and generally help induce feelings of physical comfort. Some researchers think that growing bones secrete hormones that increase metabolism and may act on the brain to increase appetite for high energy (sugary) foods. So, he’s right when he says the Oreos make his brain work better! : ) I think you can relax.

You can follow some links in this article that expand on some of the claims.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/09/26/140753048/kids-sugar-cravings-might-be-biological


Heather Booth wrote:
I just read what you added to the "Sugar as a scary substance" page by Deb Lewis.

I got a fairly large tattoo when I was 30 and before I went for my first day my tattoo guy told me to bring fruit or candy to suck on because it helps with pain.

I thought it was cool when I put those things together.

Deb Lewis, responding to this assertion:

"For example, choosing sugar is shaped by the addictive nature of sugar; it is not a free choice."
I really like sweets. My husband really likes sweets. When we were growing up sweets were rare treats for us. Our folks didn't have much money. David's (dh) mom baked, she liked sweets too, but my mom didn't like baking. She made bread, that was about it. Well into our thirties, David and I could sit and eat a whole package of cookies, or if I baked, polish off a cake in a couple of days. David still stashes candy around the house. I find M&M's rolling around in the desk drawer.

If sugar is addictive then our child, the genetic spawn of two sweets loving people, who grew up in a house where sweet foods were always available, should be floundering in a sugary haze. He doesn't much care for sweets. When he was little and would go out on halloween, he'd come home and give his candy to his dad. David would eat all the good stuff and then the bag would sit around for months and finally get thrown out.

I could have decided Dylan was doomed to a life of sugar addiction because both his parents liked sweets. But I had read some ideas that it was the rareness of sweets in a kids life that made them more valuable and I wondered if Dylan could have a better sense of balance than his dad and I had. Dylan has never eaten a candy bar. He's never eaten Twinkies or any of the other packaged Twinkie like things. He doesn't like pie. He doesn't eat sweet cereal. He doesn't like hard candy or soft candy or gummy candy. He doesn't like Kool-Aid. He drinks cola.

I still really like sweets. I bake a lot. I don't feel guilty about it anymore. I don't feel like I shouldn't be eating it, I enjoy sweets and I eat them whenever I want. But it turns out, I eat less than I did twenty years ago or even ten years ago. Something about knowing I can have whatever I want, whenever I want it and that I won't punish myself with guilt about it has made that difference.

So, I don't believe sugar is addictive. I believe some people naturally like sweets more than others and I believe our attitude about sugar, about any food, creates more problems than the food itself. I think one of the best things we can do to ensure a healthy attitude about foods for our kids is to not screw up their psychology with fear and guilt and dire warnings.

Deb Lewis
(full discussion in the archives of Always Learning)


In a discussion on Facebook in August 2011, Annie Kessler wrote:
I used to honestly believe that my son was really sensitive to sugar and that consuming it changed his behavior in negative ways. Then someone (at an unschooling conference) mentioned some of these ideas—how sometimes we blame behaviors on something like sugar but the problem is really *our* own perception of what is going on and not the actual reality of what is happening. They said it more clearly than that, but that's what I took away from it and when I really thought about it and examined the situation and really watched my child I could see that it was true.

At the time we were going through a pretty long period where we really limited sugar and we still had all the same kinds of "behavior problems" that we would previously blame on sugar. If it happened for no identifiable reason, then we wondered why our son was acting like this. If it happened after he had sugar, then we blamed it on the sugar. I guess it was convenient to have something to lay the blame on, and when he didn't eat sugar but was still acting the same way I was confused and frustrated and didn't understand why my child was acting like that. I think part of me really wanted to believe that it was caused by sugar because at least I had an answer with an easy fix. Only it makes me sad that I didn't realize sooner that the easy fix (limits on sugar) wasn't really helping at all and that should have been a big clue that sugar wasn't the problem in the first place.

Anyway, I am glad that someone pointed this out to me and that I was ready to hear it at the time. I'm glad to see some of the same ideas coming up here because there might be someone else like me out there.

When I asked if I could use it, she wrote: Yes, please use it. I think it fits on the sugar page or the getting it page. The sugar page has less on it, so maybe that would be the best place to add it in, but I'm fine with having it wherever. You can use my name—Annie Kessler. Later she sent a follow-up note, which I've added to True Tales of Kids Turning Down Sweets.
In a discussion on home-made sweets created to quell the desire for commercial/bought sweets, I wrote:
I'm hoping Schuyler Waynforth or Julie Daniel could tell the story of the sugar cubes, or someone can find or retell the bowl-of-M&Ms account. Thanks!
Schuyler wrote:
The sugar cube story isn't mine, although I play a role. It is a story that Julie tells and I only learned about in great retrospect.
Julie:
The story was that Adam (when he was four maybe) started to eat packets of sugar in cafes and coffee shops - he would just open them and tip them into his mouth. I was feeling really anxious about it and thinking that it couldn't be good for him and I would try to move/hide the sugar pots before he sat down so that he wouldn't see them. Or I would say "That's enough sugar now" after he had eaten a few packets. We weren't limiting other things at home and that was all working fine. I thought that I had "got it" about the economics of restricting food but now I think that maybe I felt particularly bothered about the sugar in coffee shops because I imagined that other people might be looking at me and thinking what a bad mother I was for allowing my child to eat refined sugar right out of the packet! And the more anxious I was the more he seemed to want to eat it (duh!)

Around that time we visited Schuyler and she said to me that she remembered eating sugar as a child (I did too but I had somehow managed to forget that.) and she said she remembered that it was really nice, it felt good on your tongue. And she suggested I buy a box of sugar cubes and put them somewhere where Adam could access them freely, just like the food at home. So I bought two boxes and put one on his small table in the kitchen. The first day he ate *lots and lots* of sugar cubes (maybe fifteen or more). I though "oh no, this isn't working" but I breathed and waited. The next day he ate quite a lot but not as many as the first day. By about day five or six he was eating maybe a couple of sugar cubes a day and after that he just stopped! He hadn't finished the box at that point and it sat on his table for several weeks. I used it up in cups of tea for visitors and the second box is still in the cupboard in case he wants it someday.

Occasionally he still eats a packet of sugar in a coffee shop. Sometimes if I am ordering at the counter and the sugar is up there rather than on the tables I pick up a couple of sachets and bring them back to the table for him. Sometimes he eats the ones I bring, sometimes he doesn't.

That's it really. I don't think my anxiety / hiding the sugar was helpful to either of us and I much prefer it this way.

(an update two years later)

In a discussion on the Always Learning list in which mothers of babies had come to enlighten unschoolers about hyperactivity, Julie V. wrote:
Living in fear about purported truths can make anything seem true. When I lived in fear concerning my kids consuming sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup I could swear that it changed their behavior. Truthfully though, it didn't, and it still doesn't now that I've moved past living in fear.
Jennifer Neary responded:
Absolutely. I've given up telling folks that sugar doesn't make kids hyper, they simply don't believe it. The link below will take you to a sweet little article that sums up the research done on this topic.
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2747/does-giving-sweets-to-kids-produce-a-sugar-rush
Most interesting to me was the study where they told the moms they were testing for the effects of sugar on behavior, but they were really testing the moms' reactions. It's in the article linked above, but here's [some of the article by Cecil Adams]:
Why would a sizable chunk of the child-rearing population continue to swear it (the sugar/hyperactivity link) exists? For a crucial piece of the puzzle we turn to the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology and a 1994 study by Daniel Hoover and Richard Milich, in which they looked at 31 boys ages five to seven and their mothers, all of whom had described their offspring as being "behaviorally affected by sugar."

The mom-son teams were split into the customary two groups: the moms in one were told their sons would be given extra-sugary Kool-Aid, while the others were told their kids were in the control group and would get a drink sweetened with aspartame. In reality, though, the same artificially sweetened stuff was administered to both sets of kids while the women got a sheaf of surveys to fill out. Mothers and children were then videotaped playing together, after which the moms were asked how they thought things went.

What did Hoover and Milich find? You guessed it: the moms who thought they were in the sugar group said their sons acted more hyper. In addition, they tended to hover over their children more during play, offer more criticism of their behavior, etc. The mother-son pairs in the other group were judged by observers to be getting along better. What's more, those moms who, going into the experiment, most strongly believed their kids were sugar-sensitive also scored highest on a test designed to gauge cognitive rigidity.

From there, of course, it's not too hard to whip up a hypothesis explaining why the sugar-high myth persists. Having always heard that sugar makes kids act crazy, some parents, particularly those hailing from the control-freak end of the spectrum, may go a little crazy themselves when the sugary stuff enters the picture. In situations where sweets are freely available to their children - like birthday parties or other high-stimulation events - they watch worriedly for any sign of obstreperousness, see it even if it's not there, call it hyperactivity, and attribute it to the cookies and cake. Kids, meanwhile, typically aren't oblivious to this sort of anxiety; consciously or not, they may well figure out that after taking on a load of candy they're expected to run amok and happily oblige.


[One day] we picked a friend up from a [particular group meeting]. It was the last day, and a doughnut was involved at the very end. I sat with a mom as the kids happily lined up to "buy" their doughnuts and she turned to me and said that they had been on a sugar high ever since SMELLING the doughnuts, and now they'd be REALLY crazy. Huh?

I've seen this active group of boys play enthusiastically together on many occasions, and my guess is that sugar was probably not always involved. ;-) And let's not forget to mention that they'd been sitting through a class and were probably now really ready to move.

I think some people talk about a sugar high now in such commonly accepted terms, flying in the face of how science has shown us that bodies react to sugar, that its just a short-hand for a group of kids playing energetically. "Oh, they must be on a sugar high."

Joanna
(edited slightly by Sandra to protect the goofy.)


This was written after Christmas, in one of the first few years after 2010, by an unschooling mom I respect and know in person. It was presented anonymously, in public, because she is kind and didn't want to frustrate her relatives. I can vouch for her thoughtful honesty, and have been to the house that's mentioned.—Sandra
Last night, my sister’s family visited for Christmas Eve dinner. I had a plate of sugar cookies out as part of the evening’s food, and her children and my son both had 2 cookies. My son had also had three cookies just before they arrived - I know because he had asked “if I eat three, will we still have enough for company?”

My sister's children are not allowed sugar except on the most rare of occasions (including Christmas). When they do have things with sugar in them, it’s only after begging their mother “please, please can I have one?? Just one?? Please!!! I won’t be crazy - PLEASE!!!”

Last night, in order for the 6 year old to Earn the second cookie, she had not only had to beg and promise - but she also had to choose one protein item to eat first. The child didn’t want a protein item and said so clearly (“NO I don’t WANT to choose a protein - and especially NOT cheddar cheese!!!”). My sister persisted, and the child finally chose a small piece of Colby Jack cheese, and the biggest cookie she could find on the plate. The other child wasn’t required to have a protein in order to get a second cookie, apparently because he ate a plate of white rice with soy sauce - and that was deemed sufficient.

After they had their cookies, despite promises to the contrary, they indeed did go quite crazy with happiness - they were bouncing around the house, running down the hallway, and being very loud. My sister told my mother in a loud enough voice for everyone, including the children, to hear - “I shouldn’t have let them eat the cookies.”

Instead of joining that conversation I asked the kids to slow down, and suggested we open presents (so they’d have something to do besides chase each other about :-)). They excitedly tore open their gifts, and then expressed immediate disappointment that they had not received more. The 9 year old announced loudly that next year, he thought people should buy many more things, so he’d have more to open. The six year old said “that’s it??"

My sister shrugged her shoulders and said flatly, “it’s the sugar.”

Despite all the sugar he’d consumed my son (who’d had more cookies than his younger cousins) had not been running all about or screaming, and was not complaining about his presents. He was happily chatting with people, and opening one gift at a time - thanking everyone for what he’d received, and then playing with what he’d opened. When he heard my sister blame the sugar for the way her kids were acting, he whispered to me “somehow I don’t think it’s the sugar… I think they’re just really excited but they don’t know how they’re supposed to act about gifts and parties.”

I don’t believe for one second it was the sugar making my niece and nephew crazy I think they were excited to be at a family gathering, excited to be allowed to eat a treat that they are normally denied, and left without coaching on how to calm down in a big group of people, how to say polite thank-yous, and how to think thoughts without saying them about “not enough” or “wish there was more.” I think they were feeding off my sister’s fears about what sugar would Do To Them, and that was revving them up even more. I think they love opening gifts (since gifts are also holiday-and-birthday-only things in their lives) and they didn’t want the opening of them to end. I think if sugar were the demon responsible for their behavior, my son would have been at least a little crazy since he’d had more - and he didn’t balance it with protein til much later in the day

That’s just anecdotal evidence - not a study. Someone could argue that my son can process/handle/whatever sugar, and the other children couldn’t. Or someone could argue that he’s immune to its effects and they’re the other children aren’t. Or someone could argue lots of other things.

*Or* instead someone - everyone - could help their children enjoy treats, enjoy parties, and enjoy presents without looking for demons in the food, or the air, or the water, or anywhere else. That’d be pretty cool.


Alex Polikowsky wrote (2014):
I have heard from many kids who are limited in their sugar compulsion that sugar makes them hyper.

They believe it. Just read what Placebo and Nocebo effects are.
Not only that, parents are much more likely to connect ANY kind of behavior to the kids consuming sugar.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
My kids are 8 and 12 and I have tons of candy, chocolate and baked goods in my house. IT makes my husband happy. It does not mean the kids are eating it all day and just that and if they do they are still themselves. No behavior is affected.

Not that food cannot affect behavior. Even I can have a meltdown if my blood sugar is low and I have not eaten. Maybe I need some fluids or some protein and some sugar to get that going well. So are kids !

Kids need a LOT more glucose all day to keep up with their energy, growth (brain too) and to stay happy than we do.

I have had kids in my house that raided my well-stocked pantry or ate candy that was squished or otherwise old, by my kids' standards.

I had them eat and eat and eat.
I have never seen my kids do it like that. Even when they are eating more than normal it has never ever compared to the desperation these kids have shown me from time to time.


Why aren't my kids hyper after bingeing on sugar? 2013 article about a review of 12 studies showing sugar doesn't make kids hyper, but that moms WANT it to be true.

Outside article from 2015 calmly refuting the charge that sugar is addictive:
Addicted To Sugar? Don’t Believe The Hype Just Yet.

More on sugary hyper-mythology, from the page on myths:

Sugar causes hyperactivity.

False, but repeated OFTEN in sitcoms and comedies, and by moms who want to limit and shame their kids.

BBC article on Sugar and Hyperactivity in which parents are tricked, and can't tell the difference

http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/children/9911/22/diet.sugar.myth.kids.wmd/
http://www.usnews.com/articles/science/medical-science/2008/12/17/5-surprising-holiday-health-myths.html I think you need a subscription to get to back issues.


Food and eating Myths Too Many Parents Believe "Building an unschooling Nest"