I recently read an article concerning a study that showed that children are perfectly happy with non-sugary cereal (as a opposed to sugary cereal) when they have options. When I was reading the article, several concerns rose up.
First was the fact that when given a choice, kids would often make healthier choices. (See http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2010/12/13/kids-not-so-stuck-on-sugary-breakfast-cereals-study-finds.html) but more often than not, unhealthy choices are being made for them.
However according to Len Marquart, an associate professor of food science and nutrition at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, “…kids are sleepy and cranky, and it’s hard to get them to sit down and eat breakfast,” he said. “The sugar cereals marketed with flash and color and cartoon characters help get kids to the kitchen table when nothing else seems to work. And, we have to be realistic, they do like the taste of presweetened cereals.”
Which strikes me as saying that instead of keeping the child away from unhealthy choices that are well packaged, we are turning our parenting responsibilities over to Madison Ave. Instead of doing the extra work to give children appealing healthy choices, overall, parents still take the easy way out. He went on to say… “But one solution is to be creative. “Take Cheerios and put some strawberries and vanilla yogurt on top, and that’s going to taste better than any presweetened cereal anyway,”
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Another disturbing aspect of this is that the kids who were fed the higher sugar content cereals were less likely to drink orange juice and eat fruit. So one unhealthy choice leads to another. Also, the kids eating the “sugar” cereals took in almost twice as much sugar and had to eat more cereal in order to feel satisfied.
Other issues that one might want to keep in mind are: sugar crashes, sugar addiction and the negative impacts white refined sugar has on the ADD/HD child, who can experience these issues even more than the non ADD/HD child.
As the song says, “What goes up must come down.” When a child is overloaded with sugar and ends up on a sugar high, they are either consume regular intakes of sugar to keep the high going or else they crash. The sugar rushes and drops not only interfere with the learning process, it physically taxes the body and makes the teacher’s job harder at school.
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Though at one time sugar addiction was thought as a fringe concept, there is more and more research indicating that sugar addiction is a very real condition and should be of concern. Of course it could be a decade or more before science is ready to verify that addiction of sugar does exist. How many years did it take before they had to admit that cigarettes are addictive? Can’t we just through observation notice the roller coaster ride that sugar highs and lows cause? The increase in obesity and diabetes may also give us a clue — ulness we decided it’s not real until enough studies have been done.
ADD/HD and refine sugars
There is a two fold issue her. One is because of the high strung nature of the ADD/HD individual, sugar can contribute to the dramatic meltdowns which are often associated with these individuals. Which is then followed by a drug like induced hangover after the meltdown. Second is that the ADD/HD body is more nutrient orientated and will keep eating to find the level of nutrient support it needs to keep functioning instead of stopping at a certain caloric level.
Because ADD/HD individuals tend to utilize and process energy differently, calories don’t have the significance that they use to. Therefore the nutritionally empty calories of refined sugars is a double threat to these children.
Madison Avenue has told us how to buy into coolness (at the cost of our financial security), spend our way into unachievable beauty, contributing to eating disorder and body images issues, lurid us into popularity, pushing us towards drinking and smoking, while reminding us of our inadequacies, creating an all time high for anti-depressant and other emotional/mental illness drugs.
These days, it even helps us to diagnosis ourselves so we can tell the doctor what medications would be best for us. To top everything else they guide us on how to raise, feed and medicate our kids so we can be proud parents.
Which brings us to the question: at what point will we simply put Madison Ave in charge of everything so that we can have the perfect life that we deserve, as long as we can pay for it and stay drugged enough to not notice how imperfect it really is?
Dr. Kevin Ross Emery is the author of Managing the Gift: Alternative Approaches for Attention Deficit Disorder