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October 31st, 2016
Sugar: Effects on Your Child’s Brain
posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom
It’s Halloween, which means today our children are going to be overloaded with enough candy to feed 100 of their closest friends. And it’s all in fun, I know. But it got me to thinking today about how sugar affects a child’s brain. So I’ve been doing a little research.
If your child is often found eating something that is sugar-packed, then he is not eating nutrition-packed food–fuel that his brain and body need for highest function. Studies show that eating more fruits and vegetables contributes to a higher school performance and cognitive function. As parents, we give our kids tools to be the best they can be. So make this part of your planning.
Plan a Menu that is Fun and Healthy
Empty calories is not the best route for your child. Consider it a daily challenge, as you plan your child’s menu. That’s not to say that the food you provide won’t be tasty or fun. There are hosts of good ideas out there for fun and healthy foods to make for your child. You can go to Pinterest and find them in a flash!
Our brains do need a constant supply of glucose (not too much and not too little); but in the form of refined sugars, it adversely affects them. The best route for sugar intake comes in more complex sugars, like fructose from milk and fruits, which provides added nutrients and are more healthy. Researchers at the Salk Institute in California found that high glucose levels resulting from quick, easy sugar intake slowly but surely damage cells everywhere in the body, especially those in the brain. So it causes damage to the cells and also increases your cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone. It brings added stress and also affects your memory.
Sugar Surge and Attention Span: Squirrel!
You’ve seen it over and over in your diet and in your child’s–a sugar high will plummet into a sugar low. This comes from the surge of insulin from your pancreas, as a response to too much sugar. This, in turn, causes your blood glucose to then be depleted. In effect, this lowers your body’s ability to fight off disease, depressing your immune system. This added insulin also affects not only your memory, but your attention span.
You can ask any teacher, and they can certainly testify to this: too much sugar will change the environment of the classroom. In fact I just saw this meme today on Facebook from Create.Teach.Share. Isn’t that great?
What We Suggest
So if even the teachers are noticing this effect on your children, you know this will adversely affect their test scores, as well. My take on it is this: everything in moderation. I’m not suggesting you remove all treats from their lives. For there is enjoyment and delight to be found in something like their birthday cake or the treats they receive on Halloween! What we do at home is this, we gather all their loot tonight, after the fun of trick or treating is done. And we hand it out at various times throughout the rest of the year…right in time for the winter holiday treats to come rolling around!
What works in your homes? Let us know in the comments!