Worst Science Article of the Week: Are Sugary Snacks Actually Good for Kids?

By Andrew Moseman | July 14, 2008 6:20 pm

Kids love chocolate — but will it actually make them better learners?The Telegraph published an article this weekend headlined, “Sugary Snacks Help School Children Concentrate.”

Really?

Here’s what actually happened: In a study of 16 kids, researchers gave them fruit juice containing either artificial sweetener or glucose—the natural sugar that acts as the body’s main energy source. The kids who drank the juice with glucose scored better on memory tests than the ones who ate artificial sugar, and appeared to have longer attention spans as well. Study leader David Benton‘s main conclusion, then, was that children might perform better in school if they ate occasional snacks, rather than one big meal, and that a snack with some sugar might not be such a bad thing for them.


The author of the Telegraph story, however, can’t resist writing that the idea of sugar being good for kids will “delight children and horrify parents,” as if Benton’s finding somehow means that children can now gorge themselves at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in the name of science. Eventually the author returns to the realm of real science and reminds us that excessive sugar can contribute to childhood obesity, and that “Professor Benton did insist that schools should not start feeding pupils fizzy drinks between classes, proposing regular fruit of muesli bars instead.”

So foods with natural sugars like fruits make good snacks for kids, while soda and other junk foods that are chock-full of artificial chemicals and sweeteners probably aren’t. Sounds like conventional wisdom, not earth-shattering news.

The Telegraph also says that Benton’s findings have made him “a star in the world of palaeontology.” Unless there’s some link between children’s nutrition and dinosaur bones that we’re just missing, we’ll assume that’s not what they meant.

Image: iStockphoto

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