Limit candy in order to promote healthy eating habits that are good for young bodies and minds.

How Does Candy Affect Behavior in Kids?

by Debra Pachucki

Contrary to popular belief, sugar does not cause hyperactivity, aggressive behavior or obesity in kids, according to the Children's Physician Network. In fact, candy and other high-sugar sweets have an indirect impact on misbehavior. When consumed in moderation and after a well-balanced meal, candy doesn’t negatively affect child behavior or wellness in any way. Candy can even be used in some instances to promote positive, healthy child behavior.

Effects on Behavior

The high amounts of sugar found in candy can adversely affect a child’s behavior when he consumes large amounts of candy without any additional nutritional intake. Yale Scientific Magazine reports that excessive amounts of sugar consumed on an empty stomach can lead to a decrease in attention span and an increase in adrenaline. The Children’s Physician Network acknowledges that too much candy can also cause a child to become drowsy. These effects can make a child unfocused, disorganized, irritable, overactive or sluggish.

Indirect Effects

Excessive candy consumption indirectly affects child behavior in a few different ways. Children who regularly eat lots of candy are at an increased risk for tooth decay -- especially if they aren’t brushing their teeth after eating it. Dental problems associated with tooth decay, such as toothache and sensitivities, can impact a child’s behavior in negative ways. A child suffering from dental discomfort may become irritable, impatient, frustrated, easily agitated, aggressive or upset. She may also be reluctant to eat and chew food, which can negatively impact her mood and energy level.

Other Concerns

The Center for Environmental Health acknowledges that candy products imported from Mexico have long contained high levels of lead. Some companies, such as Mars and Hershey’s, have agreed to ban lead in candy. Lead exposure from contaminated candy can cause a child to become irritable, inattentive, hyperactive and, if lead levels are high enough, experience learning problems and hearing loss.

Promoting Good Behavior with Candy

Lead-free candy can satisfy a child’s sweet tooth and encourage good behavior, when used occasionally as a reward or incentive. Don’t immediately reward good behavior with candy on the spot, but rather, let your child know she’s earned her reward and save the special treat for after dinner, as a dessert. This ensures that your child consumes the sugar after receiving balanced nutrition, which helps the body to process the sugar more efficiently and with no ill effects. Be sure to use other rewards, such as healthy snacks and privileges, to encourage behavior so that candy isn’t consumed in excess or regularly demanded by your child.

About the Author

Debra Pachucki has been writing in the journalistic, scholastic and educational sectors since 2003. Pachucki holds a Bachelor's degree in education and currently teaches in New Jersey. She has worked professionally with children of all ages and is pursuing a second Masters degree in education from Monmouth University.

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