It may not be the sugar! - ONIE Project

It may not be the sugar!

Posted by ONIE Project on 02/18/2015

ONIE Project: Sugar and Caffeine

Mothers sometimes say that kids are hyper after downing a soft drink.  Many call it a sugar high.  While too much sugar can lead to problems, being hyper is almost certainly not one of them. 

            Maybe it’s the caffeine.  Could be.  Caffeine is a stimulant, and some kids are more sensitive than others. 

            But the soda might have an ingredient you have not considered—sodium benzoate, which is used as a preservative.  An experiment with both younger kids (age 3) and older kids (8 to 9), gave them different kinds of drinks.  These were normal kids with no behavior problems.  Sometimes the drinks had sodium benzoate, and sometimes they did not.  When the drinks had sodium benzoate, the kids were more hyperactive. 

            A different study looked at college students, who rated their attention levels.  The students who consumed more drinks with sodium benzoate reported more problems with attention. 

            Studies like these have caused soft drink makers to remove sodium benzoate from many of the drinks.  But many drinks still have it.  You may also find sodium benzoate in foods that are acidic—like jelly, jam, and salad dressing. 

            A third-grade child may enjoy toast with jam for breakfast, have a soft drink at lunch, then drink some fruit juice with supper—and get sodium benzoate at each meal, which may add up to a lot. Not every child has trouble paying attention at school, but many do and it is a common problem. If you are concerned about whether your child is having trouble paying attention, one good idea is to take a look at whether the foods your child consumes contain sodium benzoate.

For more information: 

McCann, D., Barrett, A., Cooper, A.,  Crumpler, D., Dalen, L., Grimshaw, K., et al., (2007). Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet, 370(9598), 1560-1567.   

Beezhold, B. L., Johnston, C. S., & Nocta, K. A. (2014). Sodium Benzoate–Rich beverage consumption is associated with increased reporting of ADHD symptoms in college students: A pilot investigation. Journal of Attention Disorders, 18(3), 236-241.

Dr. Dave Kerby and the ONIE Project Team

ONIE Project




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