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Sugar High

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Sugar High

Legend tells us that too much sugar makes children hyper, loud and bursting with energy, but is the old tale true?

Sugar, particularly added sugars (any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation) have a lot of different effects on the human body. From hyperactivity to effects on the brain, here’s what you should know.

Does sugar (natural or added) cause hyperactivity in children?

The answer is false.

In a double-blind research study undertaken in 1994, children (some of whom had been identified by their parents as sugar-sensitive) and their families were placed on a different diet for three consecutive three-week periods. For each period, the families consumed a diet either high in sucrose with no artificial sweeteners, a diet low in sucrose and containing aspartame (artificial sweetener), or a diet low in sucrose and containing saccharin (the placebo). Parents were asked to assess and monitor their child’s behavior over this time.

At the end of the nine-week study, the results of cognitive and behavioral tests, along with reports from parents and researchers were collated. The authors concluded that ‘neither sucrose nor aspartame produces discernible cognitive or behavioral effects in normal preschool children or in school-age children believed to be sensitive to sugar’ (Carruthers, 2017).

The true shift that occurred once children consumed sugar was within the parents’ expectation of their behavior.

When we consider the places and situations where sugar is presented, there is already a level of excitement happening that can cause someone to believe that sugar is the cause rather than correlated to the event in question. For instance, Christmas Day, birthday parties, or trick or treating for Halloween. These are just a few examples of events that are by nature, exciting for children. There is already adrenaline and a buzz in the air that children, and adults both are reacting to. The real dangers of sugar are more sinister than being a little hyper.


Too much sugar is more detrimental to your heart than any other part of the body.

The answer is mostly true.

While sugar affects everyone differently, too much of it can have catastrophic effects on our overall health, especially the heart. In a study published in 2014 an association was found between a high-sugar diet and a greater risk of dying from heart disease. Over the course of the 15-year study, people who got 17% to 21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared with those who consumed 8% of their calories as added sugar.

Dr. Hu, the lead researcher on the subject had this to say,"Your liver metabolizes sugar the same way as alcohol, and converts dietary carbohydrates to fat." Over time, this can lead to a greater accumulation of fat, which may turn into fatty liver disease, a contributor to diabetes, which raises your risk for heart disease (Harvard Health Publishing, 2019).

The same accumulation of fat can also lead to weight gain and obesity. Evidence suggests that high-sugar diets can lead to obesity, inflammation and high triglyceride, blood sugar and blood pressure levels — all risk factors for heart disease (Kubala, 2018).


Sugar consumption has also been linked to acne.

The answer is also true.

A diet high in refined carbs, including sugary foods and drinks, has been associated with a higher risk of developing acne.

Foods with a high glycemic index, such as processed sweets, raise your blood sugar more rapidly than foods with a lower glycemic index.

Sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development (Kubala, 2018).


And lastly, can sugar be good for your brain?

Yes, the answer is true.

Glucose, a form of sugar, is the primary source of energy for every cell in the body. Because the brain is so rich in nerve cells, or neurons, it is the most energy-demanding organ, using one-half of all the sugar energy in the body. According to Harvard Medical School, brain functions such as thinking, memory, and learning are closely linked to glucose levels and how efficiently the brain uses this fuel source. If there isn’t enough glucose in the brain, for example, neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers, are not produced and communication between neurons breaks down. In addition, hypoglycemia, a common complication of diabetes caused by low glucose levels in the blood, can lead to loss of energy for brain function and is linked to poor attention and cognitive function (Edwards, 2016).


“The brain is dependent on sugar as its main fuel…”


Of course that doesn’t mean we can devour sugar by the pounds but it’s good to know that a little sugar during a test or study session can help boost our focus. Talk to your healthcare provider if any concern about sugar consumption arises as well as you and your family's risk of diabetes or heart disease.

For more information or to set up an appointment, visit our website or call 307-464-0413 for Wright Clinic and Occupational Health.



Carruthers, T. (2017, October 23). Does sugar really make kids hyper? Curious.

Edwards, S. (2016). Sugar and the Brain.

Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, November 5). The sweet danger of sugar - Harvard Health. Harvard Health; Harvard Health.

Hyperactivity and sugar: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2016).

Kubala, J. (2018, June 3). 11 Reasons Why Too Much Sugar Is Bad for You. Healthline.

Sugar 101. (2018).

  • Category: Campbell County Medical Group Wright Clinic & Occupational Health