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Q: Sugar and Learning problems in students ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Sugar and Learning problems in students
Category: Health
Asked by: michael17-ga
List Price: $18.00
Posted: 08 Jul 2004 08:18 PDT
Expires: 07 Aug 2004 08:18 PDT
Question ID: 371307
I would like a sampling of basic, laymen-level statistics, fairly
concise news articles, or other evidence regarding the connection
between sugar/high-sugar diets and learning/focus/wellness problems in students
(of all ages). Reputable periodicals or news organizations / respected
researchers / credible doctors are all acceptable sources. If a
sufficient answer is provided before 1 pm EST on Friday, July 9, 2004 I will
guarantee a $9 bonus.
Subject: Re: Sugar and Learning problems in students
Answered By: andrewxmp-ga on 08 Jul 2004 10:48 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi michael17-ga,

Thank you for allowing me to answer this interesting question, one
that every parent has probably considered at some point.

After extensive searching, I did not find a single reputable source
indicating that a high sugar diet contributes to learning problems in
students of any age.  To the contrary, many studies have been done to
address this misconception and have returned negative results on the
matter.  It appears that no one has suggested sugar actually decreases
cognitive ability directly, but rather causes hyperactivity or
inattention that might decrease his or her ability to focus or
otherwise learn, but you will see these theories have been refuted. 
With this in mind, it was also thought that sugar might be the cause
of conditions such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
 However, this theory has also been studied and proven wrong, per the
following sources/studies:

An excellent and informative page had the following summary:
?A meta-analysis of 23 studies which had been conducted over a period
of 12 years from 1982 to 1994 has been completed (205), to test the
hypothesis that sugar (mainly sucrose) affects the behaviour or
cognitive performance of children. This analysis did not find support
for the hypothesis. In conclusion, there is little objective evidence
to suggest that sugar significantly alters the behaviour or cognitive
performance of children. It is not appropriate to recommend
restricting a child's sugar intake for the purpose of trying to
control their behaviour. If behaviour problems exist, it is important
to identify the underlying reasons and to seek the existing and more
rigorously established interventions for their treatment.?
The article as a whole was very interesting, and can be found at:
[ ]

This document, in turn, was a summary of a paper published in the
Journal of the American Medical Association, found at:

? "Sugar" is often blamed for hyperactivity. Parents often observe
that children's' behavior deteriorates after eating sugar-containing
foods, such as chocolate chip cookies, cake, jello, kool-aid, pop,
strawberry ice cream, or chocolate bars. They often blame sugar and do
not think of other ingredients in the food as potential problems. The
sugar-hyperactivity connection illustrates a mistake of attribution,
blaming the results of the complex interaction of many food
ingredients with the body on only one of the ingredients. When sugar
(glucose and sucrose) alone is given to children, they tend to be
sedated, with unchanged or even decreased physical activity.
Another popular sugar hypothesis suggests that hypoglycemia is
responsible for irritability, fatigue, depression, and learning
difficulties. Again, this hypothesis has not been substantiated and is
too simplistic to be an adequate explanation of diverse forms of
dysfunction. High sugar intake is never desirable for children, nor
adults. The move to artificial sweeteners is also not desirable. The
goal is moderation of total sugar intake. The high protein diets
prescribed for alleged "hypoglycemia" are definitely not desirable for
children. ?
[ ]

These papers are not saying that consuming sugar is healthy or
otherwise good for students.  For a food so high in calories, sugar is
known to have minimal nutritional value and is often found in
conjunction with other nutritionally-lacking foods.  However, sugar
itself appears to not directly inhibit leaning ability.

?In the 1970s it was suggested that hyperactivity in children (also
known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD) was caused
by eating too much sugar. Detailed studies, however, have concluded
that there is no link between sugar consumption and hyperactivity or
any other type of 'bad behaviour' or learning difficulties. Children
may become over-excited on occasions where lots of sugary foods are
eaten (e.g. birthday parties) but this is a consequence of the
situation, not their sugar intake.
Sugar is a normal part of a healthy diet and it is not possible to be
'allergic', 'intolerant' or 'sensitive' to sugar. ?

?Excessive sugar intake may also have physical effects on the body and
should be avoided. Eating too many sugary foods will leave students
less hungry for more nutritious ones, and they may end up missing
valuable vitamins and minerals. The brief energy boost that
accompanies the intake of sugar is quickly replaced by a longer
shortage of energy.?
[ ]

In fact, sugar doesn?t appear to be the evil food it is commonly made
out to be.  It does provide very little nutrition, but it does not
cause the harms that many people believe.  A good article describing
this misconception can be found at:
[ ]

So, the conclusion is that a high-sugar diet will not directly hinder
learning ability in students.  However, eating vast amounts of sugar
is not the most nutritionally-sound practice, and for that reason
should be avoided.

I trust this information has shed light on your questions, but if you
require a clarification, please request one, especially before rating
this answer.  Thank you for bringing this question to Google Answers!


Search terms used:
eating sugar learning ability students
eating sugar learning students
eat sugar diet learning problems
michael17-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $9.00
Though it wasn't exactly the answer I hoping for, your apparent level
of effort, sound logic, and thorough response are all appreciated.

Subject: Lick the Sugar Habit
From: curious_-ga on 08 Jul 2004 15:24 PDT
There's a great book called Lick the Sugar Habit that goes into lots
of detail about the negative effects of sugar in children and adults. 
It is extensively footnoted with all of the studies referenced.  It is
very readable as well.
Subject: Re: Sugar and Learning problems in students
From: neilzero-ga on 10 Jul 2004 02:20 PDT
I was not surprised at the conclusions andre found. One of the reasons
for the success of modern science is attempting to refute the claims
made by other scientists.  Most of the time the truth lies near th
middle, so likely there has been some greenhouse warming an humans
have contributed a bit to the warming trend and excessive sugar causes
at least minor problems for most humans.  Neil
Subject: Re: Sugar and Learning problems in students
From: wordsmth-ga on 14 Jul 2004 11:19 PDT
Good (accurate) answer. Still, I wonder. On the one hand, I'm a local
coordinator for CHADD (Children and Adults with
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) so I'm reasonably familiar
with ADHD and attention-related issues. On the other hand, I have a
son and I've seen (yes, it's just anecdotal, I know) the effects of
sugar on him and his friends. So while the research does not support
the suspicion that sugar makes kids hyperactive, something sure
happens after they eat sugar-laden food.

Here's one possible clue...just a thought. Ritalin and other
stimulants seem to be effective in some people with ADHD because, the
theory is, a certain area of the brain in people with ADHD is normally
not active enough--it fails to control and monitor the executive
functions that non-ADHD people do well. Thus, stimulants stimulate
that part of the brain, enabling the brain to better regulate behavior
and focus. OK, so stimulants may improve focus and concentration, as
well as executive functions. Now...the NIH study quoted above
sumamrized "When sugar (glucose and sucrose) alone is given to
children, they tend to be sedated, with unchanged or even decreased
physical activity." Hmmm...if sugar sedates the same area of the brain
that Ritalin and other drugs stimulate [yes, that's a big "if"]...if
sugar then depresses the brain's ability to perform executive
functioning...if sugar slows down that portion of the brain that
affects focus and concentration...then it could be possible that when
we see kids who've eaten lots of sugar and we assume they're
"hyperactive," it's possible that their executive functioning/control
functions have been suppressed. Just a thought, but possibly one worth

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