Sunday, March 9, 2008

Can sugar change your behaviour?

Hypoglycaemia - believed by some to be the cause of behavioural changes such as hyperactivity - has become one of the buzzwords of the past few years. Unfortunately, much of what is believed about it is not based on scientific fact. Firstly, it is not a disease but a condition in which the level of sugar (in this case, glucose) in the blood is below normal. It can occur as a symptom of organic disorders such as diabetes, or as a result of shock or anxiety.

Diet Start

Hypoglycaemia can also occur if for some reason the body loses its ability to maintain blood sugar at a constant level. In this case, eating sugar can result in a rapid rise, then a dramatic drop in blood sugar, with the accompanying symptoms (headaches, weakness, fatigue and dizziness). This condition (known as reactive hypoglycaemia) is very rare. It is difficult to diagnose, partly because the symptoms are so varied and could result from any number of other causes, including anxiety. However, it may well be that some individuals are particularly sensitive to a drop in blood sugar levels after consumption of a sugar load which triggers off the production of just a little too much insulin. Treatment for those who genuinely suffer from this disorder includes cutting out sugar and eating several small, balanced meals a day.

Some people believe that hypoglycaemia is a relatively common disorder and that it is responsible for behavioural changes that occur after eating sugar, such as hyperactivity and even criminal behaviour. In the USA, this theory gained such popularity that the defence used in a certain murder trial was that the defendant had eaten sugar- containing confectionery and was therefore not responsible for his actions! Prison diets were also changed so as to exclude all forms of sugar. Subsequently, however, controlled scientific experiments have failed to show a link between sugar consumption and hyperactivity - some studies have even shown sugar to have a calming effect!

... andjoyohoxing