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Is Sugar Bad for a Child with Autism?

Learn if sugar is bad for a child with autism from pediatrician and child development expert Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.


Is sugar bad for a child with autism? I would say is sugar bad for any child. It's really an area that needs to be looked at because most American children are getting half a pound of hidden sugar in their foods. Simple sugars are particularly an issue. We are seeing this huge rise of obesity, and diabetes, and the whole correlation with sugar per se. Studies show a mixed response whether it's hyper activity, or sudden cravings. There's mixed data with some positive studies, and some negative studies about sugar effecting behavior.

The American Academy, basically, has kept an open point of view. If sugar is making your child more hyperactive I would not give it or at least limit the amount that you take. With children with the autism spectrum, there're some concerns of sugar cravings that take place of dysbiosis of the gut, abnormal growth of bacteria, or whether there's been an imbalance between what we call the good, and bad bacteria, or there's some concern about fungal overgrowth. There are many theories regarding that, and the fact that there may be an increased sugar craving.

There's a lot of craving for carbohydrates, which really are simplified sugars. Carbohydrates simplified or simple carbs get very easily converted to sugar. I think the diet tends to be very carbohydrate based. These kids are having pizzas, or one thing, macaroni, and cheese, or sugary drinks. If the question is, is sugar bad for kids with autism I would say, yes to give a very simplistic answer. However, there are kinds of sugars, and if you are giving sugar in its more nature form using agave or honey, you can combine it with fiber so, that the sugar rush, or the sugar glycemic index is not as suddenly going up to cause a burst of what insulin being created, and creating more cravings.

I think it needs to be done in a balanced way, and to give it in more natural forms. If people use chocolate, I would use dark chocolate where the sugar content is less. You can combine it with fruit, for example. People have strawberries, and bananas dipped in dark chocolate. Children do want sweet things, but it's really a matter of creating habit. There are some children who if not exposed to it very early in life are not as craving of sugar. I think we need to be careful with the S word.

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