One of my biggest teaching nightmares when I taught elementary school was teaching the day after Halloween. It was like teaching a bunch of zombies hyped up on sugar. Some of their parents were letting them eat Halloween candy for breakfast and during their recess snack breaks. Sugar was everywhere!
I understand that trick-or-treating is fun for kids. And consuming Halloween candy is the norm. But how much sugar is too much? And what is it doing to our kids?
A recent University of Colorado study looked at the impact of excessive sugar on kids when it comes to mood and behavior. I didn't need this study to tell me that excess sugar causes kids to act differently. I saw it firsthand in my classroom. But let's examine what the study found, shall we?
The study linked excess sugar intake to aggressive behaviors, attention and hyperactivity problems, and mood disorders. There's actually an evolutionary link. Sugar lowers the energy in cells which can trigger a response similar to one we see with starvation. Now of course every child is a bit different. So we may see the same amount of sugar affect kids differently. But overall, any child with "starving" cells is going to act differently. Just think about how you act when you're hangry. Kids were shown to become irritable, impulsive, and some of them even got a little aggressive. Their behaviors mimicked symptoms of ADHD, even if the child had not been diagnosed with ADHD. This makes me wonder if "ADHD" is a dietary problem caused by too much simple carbohydrate intake. It's not the first time I've wondered this. And it definitely won't be the last.
Another negative effect of excess sugar consumption among kids is that it leads to obesity. A handful of Halloween candy is not going to make a child instantly obese. But enough over an extended period of time is not doing the child any favors. The fructose in the candy could also lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. These are two conditions that were rarely seen in children even just a few decades ago.
I'm not saying that kids need to quit trick-or-treating and eating Halloween candy. But if you're a parent, think of some ways to control their sugar intake. Having them cut back on excess sugar intake will improve their overall health - they'll potentially be less aggressive, less moody, and less hyperactive.