Did you know that in the US, the average child consumes over 22 kilograms of sugar annually? That’s just a little over one kilogram less than the sugar consumption of the average adult in the US, and we don’t know which is worse. What we do know for sure is that the biggest and most important goal of childhood is to do well in school, but consuming a lot of sugar does tonnes to hinder your child’s academic performance.
Exactly how, you ask?
1. Sugar causes shorter attention spans and affects memory
Sure, sugar activates the brain’s pleasure response, but it also impacts your child’s brain in a variety of other ways. If your child consumes a lot of sugar and then attempts something challenging such as a math problem, the brain’s hypothalamus will allow your child’s body to release cortisol, the stress hormone. This is probably the most concerning thing sugar does to your child. Cortisol impedes memory and when children’s bodies are flooded with the stress hormone at school, they find it hard to focus and be attentive in class. They may also get fidgety and will find it hard to absorb and retain any information taught to them. Makes you think twice about that jam sandwich you packed for them in the morning, doesn’t it?
2. Chronic consumption of sugar does long-term damage to your child’s memory
Reducing your child’s sugar intake can help them reach their potential short-term, but what sugar does to a child’s brain, in the long run, is unnerving. When children over-indulge in sugar early in their lives, while their brain is still developing, their memory and learning capacity decreases. Overconsumption of sugar can also cause an inflamed hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that helps your child form, organize and store memories. Imagine that.
3. Sugary foods overpower brain foods
What sugar does to your child’s digestive system is also a cause for concern. As soon as sugar moves into the digestive tract, brain receptors inform the body that it is full, even if it hasn’t consumed enough nutrients. That’s right, that doughnut you let your child have just before dinner is probably why they couldn’t finish their meal. The more added sugar a child consumes, the less likely they are to eat brain foods such as vegetables, grains and fruit. In fact, eating a lot of sugar will make fruits taste less sweet and enjoyable to your child. On this note, it’s not just what the sugar consumption is doing to your child, but also what your child is missing out on because of the sugar they had.
What you can do right now
Limit your child’s sugar intake. It is that easy and that difficult at the same time. Children should have no more than four teaspoons of sugar a day, and that includes hidden sugars in unexpected places. It may be difficult at first, but it will be so worth seeing them grow up to become intellectual teens.