Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Truth About Food

I watched the Truth About Food on Discovery Health channel last night. They do a series of informal experiments to test theories about food, as well as have experts comment. At any rate, one of the things they tested was how do kids react to food restrictions - for instance, rationing a "treat" food. They took a classroom of 5 yos, and had them taste test dried mango and raisins, and the kids rated them. It was pretty even between the two foods, they were equally liked by the children. Then the teacher said that when she blew the snack whistle, they could have as many mangoes as they wanted, but were *not to touch the raisins* until/unless she blew the "raisin whistle." The first day the children didn't seem to make too much of a fuss about the raisins, although it was clear they were looking forward to it. By the next day, they attacked the raisins. Each day they became more and more frantic to get to the raisins, to get their fill of them, to make sure no one else got more... by the 10th day they were knocking each other out of the way, shoveling them in by the handful... it was an amazing change in the dynamic from the first day. And when asked which they preferred, every one in the class said without hesitation, "Raisins!" Except one adorable little girl who said, "You know, I find I quite prefer the mangoes" and it was like she KNEW she was supposed to like the raisins better and was an anomaly. Dr Oz's conclusion was, Don't keep treats in the house, and then restrict them, because then you focus the child's attention on that food and make it something far more desirable than it might have been.

They did a couple other "kids and food" things, as well. One experiment showed that kids
will NOT necessarily stop eating when they're full (the kids in the study weren't from CL families, which I'm sure has an effect)... BUT that was when someone else was doling out portions, and they concluded that *if you allow the child to serve themselves* they generally will get very close to the exact appropriate serving size.

Another one was the sugar-makes-kids-hyper idea, and of course that was shown to
be a clear myth. Sugar may not be good for us, but it doesn't cause hyperactivity. The kids were calmer and more focused on the day they had tons of sugar (I mean, these kids were turned loose on sweets, and were putting sugar cubes in Sprite!) The way the experiment was set up in the show (and as I said, these were fairly informal - more for illustrative than scientific purposes)... the parents
thought the kids got non-sugar food at the first party, where they actually got as much sugar as they wanted, and the next day they thought they were getting the sugar when in reality they had only sugar-free food. So the parental expectation could have played in that outcome.

Also at the first (sugary) party they had arts and crafts and calmly led activities... at the second (sugar-free) party they had this magician guy who was REALLY exciting and enthusiastic, and by the time he got the kids all riled up they were falling down, running around, and throwing food. I think the implication was that the overstimulation had more to do with it than the sugar.

Just very interesting, some things are taken as "proven fact" - such as the sugar=hyperactivity connection - when in fact they are not proven at all. And yet the ideas persist.