Pondering on: SUGAR IN MY CHILDREN’S DIET
Yesterday I took the children to another bush fire fundraiser in Dunalley (I know, the combined generosity of pretty much everyone is incredibly incredible). I was looking forward to catching up with friends and seeing the children have a bit of fun. We arrived shortly before 10 am and by about 10 : 37 am Lucie spotted a lollipop and struck up her little grizzle concerto (think 3 year old playing a violin badly RIGHT IN YOUR FACE).
I hate this about sweets – they mostly make everyone grumpy even before they are consumed. “I wanna lollipop” was the refrain on loop whilst I cheerily pointed out a clown, a free sausage sizzle and a person dressed up as a duck. When none of this worked I thought, “Oh fuck it alright it have a fucking lollipop – every other kid seems to be having one”. I found a nearby corporate tent handing out lollipops to poor whingy children who must surely need a bit of free confection because their town had burned (but who actually at this point couldn’t give two shits about any fire or any subliminal advertising, they just wanna lollipop nooooooow), shoved it in her gaping whinge hole and there was relative peace for a while. Lollipops are henceforth known as Shutupachups.
But wait there’s more. Another generous bunch of people turned up with a truckload of goodie bags for the school children which contained – amongst some interesting bits and pieces including a picnic blanket, a pair of sunglasses with flashing lights and quite the most peculiar looking dolly I have ever seen – a baggie of sweets. And while I was distracted by some cheerleaders bouncing about in a very impressive fashion, the small whingy one – already cheered by one hunk of sugar – ate the whole lot. It wasn’t a large bag – kind of standard sized for a bag of mixed sweets, but she’s only 3, which means for her little system it was the equivalent of a great big bag.
Within about 15 minutes we found ourselves caught in a chunderstorm, after which she lay across my knees and fell asleep. I carried her to the car and drove home wondering whether I was in for another joyous weekend of gastro and was slightly relieved when an hour or so later she woke up and asked for a sandwich and I found the empty sweetie bag caught up the peculiar dolly’s hair.
But then I felt disturbed. What had happened to her little system to cause such a reaction? I mean we all know that sugar is feared by parents for its ability to turn small placid beings into rabid feral knob-heads. But what is the sugar actually doing? And what made my little one sick?
Well first up it’s interesting to note that science disagrees with just about every parent in the western world – objective clinical trials have not shown any link to food additives or sugar increasing activity in children. Scientists believe that the subjective results (i.e. parents reporting idiot behaviour post birthday parties) is environmental (showy off children) and psychological (we see what we believe). Oh great, so what I thought was a chemical reaction that sparked arseholiness in my children is actually all in my head and they are just plain arseholes some of the time.
But wait, there are proven links between a decrease in attention span and high levels of sugar. This is thought to be because sugar is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and the increase in blood sugar levels can trigger adrenaline production, which manifests itself in symptoms similar to hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder – AKA The Sugar Rush. Well in my way of thinking, if there are symptoms similar to hyperactivity, then the children are hyperactive aren’t they? Let’s not pussyfoot about with precise definitions – surely if sugar causes a rise in adrenaline and a decrease in attention span, then its causing behaviour that is at best irritating and at worst destructive? Don’t mess with my head science ok, I love you mostly but in this case you are being slightly nit-picky.
What about the technicolour yawn all over the lawn? Well too much sugar causes nausea because YOU ATE TOO MUCH OF IT YOU IDIOT. If small amounts of sugar are causing nausea every time then you should probably see your GP in case you have diabetes or something, but generally speaking, if you eat a huge bag of doughnuts in a short time your stomach will say ‘hell no’ and push them out again. And if it is a sugar hit, blood sugar levels will go right up, kicking your pancreas into its insulin secreting role. Insulin is a hormone that absorbs sugar from the bloodstream. When the bloodstream is overloaded with sugar, insulin is secreted in higher levels which removes the sugar very quickly, resulting in a “sugar low” which can manifest as nausea.
And why did she go so floppy and, well, asleep? There are a few reasons why sugar can cause tiredness: 1) because insulin, down the track, also triggers the release of serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that can make us feel relaxed and happy (well she looked well beyond relaxed and far from happy). 2) Consumption of sugar inhibits oroxin levels, which regulates things like fatigue and hunger. It is interesting to note here that this effect can be negated by eating protein at the same time as the sugar (does this mean ice cream and choccy is ok?). 3) The ‘sugar low’ or the rapid removal of sugar by insulin can manifest as fatigue. And, finally – 4) maybe there has been so much running about like dickheads as a result of the adrenaline thing that they are worn out.
So there you have it, from now on I will be carrying hard boiled eggs in my handbag to administer each time we encounter treats; never mind that wherever I go people will think I just farted. I can blame the kids. And I think I’ll empty out the cannister reserved for confiscated sugary notions of dubious chemical make up. Some of them will still be in perfect condition in the year 2167 if I don’t dispose of them now. This is a big thing for me – I love fake jelly things, even the unloved green jelly babies and those funny teeth. But the milk bottles can stay can’t they? They must have protein.
You all know this anyway but I feel obligated to add that a diet high in sugar can also result in nasty brown teeth and more of those fatsos that clog up the health system.