First a quick excerpt from a recent study [Click here for the full study article]:
'...The study, which will be presented at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference next month, also made another discovery: Rats, like humans, like to eat Oreo’s creamy center first. To test how the animals responded to Oreos vs. drugs, the team trained rats to navigate a maze. On one side, Oreo cookies were provided, and on the other side plain rice cakes were offered.
As you’d guess, the rats were significantly more likely to spend time on the Oreo side of the maze. The team also compared these results to rats who were trained with morphine or cocaine rather than Oreos. They found that regardless of what "substance" the rats were offered (Oreos, cocaine, or morphine) they spent about the same amount of time on the "drug" side of the maze. These behavioral data aren’t so surprising, but the researchers also reported some interesting neurological results. When rats were given Oreos, a protein called c-Fos was expressed strongly in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which is well known to be active in pleasure and addiction. "It basically tells us how many cells were turned on in a specific region of the brain in response to the drugs or Oreos," said Connecticut College professor Joseph Schroeder, who led the research. Oreos actually activated cells in this brain area more than did either cocaine or morphine, which suggests that that magical combination of sugar and fat may be even more delectable to our brains than drugs. "Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," Schroeder said. "It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."'
This study shows evidence that our brain treats sugar the same way as drugs, and sugar may be even more addicting than drugs. OH MY GOSH. And look, I love Oreos. As soon as I'm stressed, I want some double stuffed, pronto. So I'm not knockin' those delish little babies. I'm just saying, we cannot fuel our kids with sugar and expect them to behave like angels.
If your child is having behavior problems, first and foremost, look at diet!! I say it all the time. Yes, there are things we can do differently as parents so we do not reinforce negative behavior, but that little step alone will do nothing for the child who gets Sugar Crunchies and chocolate milk for breakfast, white bread peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cookies for lunch, and fast food and ice cream for dinner. Cut that crap out! I know it's cheap and fast, but so is celery, carrots, and apples.
If you read this study, it's like we're giving our kids drugs. You wouldn't load up some cocaine and hand it over to your baby, now, would you? So if it doesn't work for me to bonk you over the head with "sugar = bad behavior", then maybe this will scare the bejeebers out of you more effectively. We MUST STOP giving our kids so much sugar. Not only is it bad for behavior, sugar can be linked to countless physical ailments; diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer just to name a few biggies.
If you research people who stop taking in sugar and processed foods, you will be amazed at the change in their physical makeup and how so many of their ailments just magically disappear; skin problems, headaches, fatigue, weight gain, wrinkles, poor immunity, insomnia, depression, anxiety . . . sugar is the consistent bad boy in the gang of ugly we put into our bodies. I know personally that sugar affects my mood, energy, and guts. I drank a flavored coffee last week without having breakfast, and my blood sugar plummeted, leaving me shaky, irritable, and feeling rotten for the rest of the day. And if I have too much sugar, I can actually feel my body respond to the overgrowth of yeast.
If you don't believe this article that sugar is addicting, just try cutting it out of your own diet. It's freaking hard! And when you get stressed, sugar is the go-to fix. Donuts are my nemesis. (I swear I can't stay away from those things; I'm a donut addict.) So after you try to cut sugar out of your own diet (good luck), and you realize the insane pull that sugar has on our chemically altered brains, be aware of the addicting factor on your kids. If you give sugar the heave-ho in their diet, expect some horror flick behavior. Until they get through the withdrawal (research online for best ways to overcome the cravings), you might see lots of screaming and possibly throwing sharp, GI Joe-like objects. So you'll need to duck.
And if THAT doesn't convince you that sugar turns our bodies into a blob of disease infested, addict-prone yuck, then you're on your own. I've got to step back and throw my hands in the air. But if you resolve to do better, just try this first step in changing your child's behavior. I'm pretty darn sure you will see positive results.