Relax, sugar is sweet
December 28, 2008
SUGAR does not make children hyperactive, scientists say. However, they could
not conclusively comment on its effect on octogenarians, which may explain why
Nana Pat was dancing the can-can on the kitchen table on Christmas night after
finishing off the bowl of mini Cherry Ripes.
As for the kids, it must have been something else that made them spin like
whirling dervishes until they had drilled holes in the floorboards, festoon the
house with glitter-laced chocolate vomit and swing from the light fittings like
rabid baboons, because sugar has been given the all clear.
At least 12 double blind randomised controlled trials have examined how
children react to diets containing different levels of sugar, Dr Rachel Vreeman
and Dr Aaron Carroll from the Indiana University School of Medicine reported in
the British Medical Journal this month. None - even those looking at children
with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or "sugar-sensitive" children -
found any difference in behaviour between those who had eaten sugar and those
who had not.
The differences in behaviour existed only in parents' minds.
"When parents think their children have been given a drink containing sugar
[even if it is really sugar-free], they rate their children's behaviour as more
hyperactive," Vreeman and Carroll wrote.
This is great news for sugar manufacturers, which now just have to find
evidence dismissing sugar's links with tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease and
obesity, among other things.
Parents convinced that more than their imagination is at work after their
children have consumed certain food or drinks might want to consider the
artificial colours and preservatives on the label.
In more food news, science has found that contrary to popular belief, nocturnal
feasting does not make you fat, Vreeman and Carroll wrote.
Numerous studies have concluded that it doesn't matter when you eat; weight
gain is all about calories consumed versus exercise taken. You can eat more as
long as you move more. It's a formula that has served Nana Pat well.
However, the article was not all good cheer. Alas, with New Year's Eve
approaching, it seems there is no cure for a hangover. An exhaustive study
(featuring exhausted volunteers by the end of it) found that purported hangover
cures propranolol, tropisetron, tolfenamic acid, fructose, glucose, borage,
artichoke, prickly pear and Vegemite all failed to do the job. But researchers
did stumble across the surprisingly refreshing borage, artichoke, prickly pear
and Vegemite cocktail, which has since become popular in fashionable New York
The best way to beat a hangover is to consume alcohol only in moderation or not
at all, Vreeman and Carroll wrote. The connection between hangovers and the
perception that the kids are running around a lot and making too much noise was
Of course, the search for a hangover cure will go on, and eco-website
Treehugger came up with a heady brew of clean, green suggestions last week.
Among them were yoga (a couple of salutes to the sun and a series of moderate
twists to "wring" the alcohol out of the system), wheatgrass, rescue remedy,
coconut water and a play in the snow.
The last option has been shown to work particularly well for Australians at
this time of year, as all traces of a hangover are generally gone by the end of
an 18-hour flight to the Rocky Mountains, leaving the protagonist ready to
start drinking again.
Should he or she have flown with Qantas and arrived without luggage, Vreeman
and Carroll have some good advice to help prioritise when it comes to clothes
shopping: don't worry too much about a beanie.
Despite what almost everyone believes, we do not lose a particularly high
amount of heat through our heads. Any uncovered part of the body loses heat and
reduces body temperature proportionally.
The US Army field manual for survival recommends a hat in cold weather because
"40 to 45 per cent of body heat" is lost through the head.
"If this were true, humans would be just as cold if they went without trousers
as if they went without a hat," the pair wrote. "But patently this is just not
The myth is understood to date back to a military study in which soldiers were
dressed in arctic survival suits but no hats. It was discovered that lots of
heat was lost through the head. But that's because it was the only thing
And to think they call it military intelligence.
Of course, hats should be considered essential items for anyone venturing
outside in Australia at this time of year, not least to offer protection from
flying beer bottles when revellers discover there is no cure for a hangover and
decide to give the grog away.
Also busted in the British Medical Journal article was the myth that suicide
rates go up in the Christmas holidays. Studies in the US, Japan and Ireland
have found that they do not; and in some studies suicide rates went down.
Maybe the festive season is good for us after all. Have a happy and healthy new