The Sugar Rush: Refined Sugar and Its Effects on Children

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If you have kids, I’m sure you’re always catching them trying to sneak in a cookie, a slice of cake, a cupcake, a handful of candies, or some ice cream. Dang it, why do they always go for the foods loaded with sugar? What’s worse, those are foods with refined sugar. The bad kind of sugar. Why don’t they ever grab an apple or some vegetable sticks?

The effect of refined sugar on the behavior of children is a highly debated topic in the field of pediatrics. Some say sugar intake dramatically impacts a child’s behavior. Others say otherwise.

For many parents, they don’t want their kids consuming too much sugar. And they’re absolutely right.

Side Effects of Too Much Refined Sugar

Sugar, most especially refined sugar, has a lot of side effects on children. And most of these effects are negative ones. Read on below to know more.

Weaker Immunity

Eating too much refined sugar can lead to chronic runny noses, excessive mucus, cough, and symptoms of sinus infections. Some children even get allergies.

To ensure a strong and effective immune system to protect the body from toxins, the good bacteria should far outweigh the bad ones. However, an excess amount of sugar in the body alters the balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria. This weakens the immune system. Hence, kids easily get various infections and even diseases.

Poor Diet

Many kids who prefer to cater to their sweet tooth usually ignore fruits, vegetables, and other healthy food. They prefer to eat unhealthy processed food instead. Unfortunately, this leads to kids missing out on the necessary vitamin, minerals, and nutrients essential for overall health.

Vitamin and Mineral Depletion

The refined sugars you consume use your body’s stored B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium for its digestion. This will eventually deplete your body’s stores of these nutrients. With lesser B vitamins in the body, your nervous system suffers. This leads to you experiencing fatigue, depression, anxiety, and lethargy. In addition, the lack of calcium and magnesium also leads to arthritis and osteoporosis.


Refined sugar fuels the growth of bacteria that causes cavities. Harmful oral bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugars you eat. These then create acids that destroy the tooth enamel. If you eat unhealthy sweets every single day, all your brushing and flossing are for naught.

Behavioral Problems

Having too much refined sugar in the body leads to spikes in blood sugar levels. That’s when children have what they call “the sugar rush.” They become hyperactive and may have aggressive behavior.

The body then responds by producing a large amount of insulin. This is a hormone that takes out the sugar from the blood and transfers them into body cells. The blood sugar levels then take a quick dive. This leads to the child doing an about face. He or she then starts to feel sluggish and tired.


Refined sugar and calories go hand in hand in causing obesity. And in order to satisfy children’s hunger, kids tend to take in more than what’s healthy. That’s because refined sugar leads to decreased satiety, making kids want to eat more and more. It also contributes to leptin resistance, which then leads to weight gain.


Glucose is beneficial to the body, but having too much of it is highly toxic. It leads to insulin resistance, meaning insulin stops working as it should. The cells become resistant to it. This then leads to type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance syndrome, and many other complications. Blood sugar levels increase as well.

Liver Damage

Fructose is a kind of sugar that can only be metabolized by the liver up to a certain amount. There won’t be a problem if your source of sugar is from fruit, or if you only eat a little bit. However, if you eat too much refined sugar, the fructose level increases and overloads the liver. The fructose is then converted to unhealthy fat. When this happens in a regular basis, this leads to fatty liver and liver diseases, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Cutting Back on Refined Sugar

Reducing the refined sugar intake of your child—and yours as well—is a great idea. It’s never too early to teach your kids about healthy eating and maintaining a healthy diet. Establishing eating healthy eating habits will make your child a better and happier person.

Take note that the World Health Organization recommends only 5 percent of the total daily calories in our diets should come from sugar.

Fiber for Breakfast

For a better day at school, start your child’s day with a breakfast with a lower sugar content. This improves short-term memory and attention span at school. Breakfast that contains fiber is your best option. These type of meals regulate adrenaline levels and make school more productive. Some great examples are oatmeal, shredded wheat, berries, or whole-grain pancakes.

No to Juice Boxes

That’s right. Even if it says “100 percent fruit juice” or “organic” on the box, there’s no guarantee. Most of these fruit juices still have quite a high amount of refined sugars. In fact, a typical fruit juice pack has around 22 grams of sugar. What you can do is offer water instead. You can even put in some berries or lemon slices for some taste. Or you can make your own healthy juices that you know are healthy.

Healthy Snacks

Instead of indulging your kids’ sweet tooth by giving them cookies, candy bars, cakes, and the like, why not introduce them to healthier snack alternatives? For example, have them munch on healthy nuts. Or you can offer pieces of fruit if they’re craving for something sweet. Greek yogurt works as a great substitute for ice cream as well.

Moderation Is the Key

Of course, depriving your children completely of sugar is something else. They’ll immediately start labeling you as the evil parent who won’t let them have any fun.

If you want to avoid such labels, permit them to still enjoy their favorite candy bar or ice cream, but not make it a habit. They can have their favorite sweet treats maybe once a week.

Also, make sure they eat small portions, not huge ones. Stock up on those mini candy bars, limit ice cream to one scoop, etc.


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