Below is an exclusive interview with Dr. Amy Burton, a pediatric endocrinologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Plano, on sugar highs.

Are sugar highs real or are they a myth?
Most children should be able to handle sugar intake, even in larger amounts, but some children might be more sensitive to a high sugar intake in that they might have a reaction where their body processes it quickly, and then their [blood sugar level] drops, causing “reactive hypoglycemia.” So some of the symptoms that you might see in a small percentage of children might be due to low blood sugar after a large ingestion of sugar (or carbs), causing them to be irritable or hyper.

There have been several studies in children watching them after a high-sugar load. Most of these studies have shown that sugar highs are a myth. I think, most likely, children do not really get sugar highs, but, as mentioned, a small percentage may actually have reactive hypoglycemia.

What are some reasons to limit sugar intake in children?
What has been shown is that Americans in general intake too much sugar, with the average American taking in 1/3 of a pound of sugar daily. What high-sugar intake can do is be converted into fat in the liver causing elevated Triglycerides, a fatty liver, and long-term [illness] contributed to insulin resistance and eventually increasing your risk for Type 2 Diabetes.

What is a “healthy” amount of sugar for children?
The American Heart Association recommends:

  • Toddlers: 4 teaspoons of sugar per day
  • Ages 4–8: 3 teaspoons per day
  • Pre-Teen and Teenagers:  5 to 8 teaspoons per day

What are some popular foods for children that are unexpectedly high in sugar?

  • Fruit juices
  • Fruit snacks
  • Breakfast cereal (most cereals marketed to children)
  • Chocolate milk
  • Some low-fat yogurt

If you think your child eats too much sugar, what are some healthier alternatives?
Instead of juice, give your child a fruit, for example an orange instead of orange juice, an apple instead of apple juice, etc.  [Try] Greek yogurt tubes instead of “Gogurt,” and Cheerios, Rice Krispies or even oatmeal, instead of sugary cereal. Also, I recommend plain milk instead of chocolate milk.

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