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This article is from the In-Depth Report Science and the Holidays
60-Second Mind

Beware the Holiday Sugar High

Recent research concludes that parents significantly overestimate how sugar affects their children's hyperactive behavior. Susannah F. Locke reports.

[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]

Candy canes. Christmas cookies. And, predictably, your little cousins are bouncing off the walls. An article published last week in BMJ says that our skewed perception of hyper behavior post-sugar might be mostly in our heads.

Most reviews, including this one, have concluded that if you slip kids some sugar without them knowing it, it doesn’t have a hyperactivity effect in most children, even ones with ADHD.

One study shows that parents can fall prey to the placebo effect, seeing their kids as more hyperactive when under the false impression that the kids have eaten sugar.

Researchers gave 30 boys a drink of sugar-free Kool-Aid, but they told some mothers that they had been given a very sugary beverage, instead.

Those moms who thought their kids had ingested sugar rated their sons as more hyperactive than those who were told the truth.

So if your cousin is being a pain in the rear, maybe you should be the one to chill out.

—Susannah F. Locke

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