Video: Raising a sugar-crazed thug?

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    >> you can take it from willy wonka , too many shug ree snacks can be bad for your kids. for years old wives tale physical you give a kid sugar they will get hyperafter it. is it the sugar or the environment or anything else? time to make rounds, i'm joined by aped pediatrician and child advocate at rainbow babies and children's hospital in cleveland and in the studio by psychologist jeff gardear. i'd like to start with you because i was fascinated with this, a statistic from this study. 69% of 29 to 34 years old convicted for violence had eaten candy nearly every day as a child compared to 42% of those convicted for the nonviolent crimes. the author is making the correlation, feed your kids candy as kids, become felons later in life. you're laughing, too.

    >> the british have such a way with words. persistently giving confectionary to children, you know, we went through this in the '70s and the '80s looking at whether or not candy made kids hyperand lots of studies in u.s. medical literature not having any correlation between giving kids candy and having them be hyper. i can tell you if a child does not have any structure in their life and allowed to eat whatever they want to whenever they want to and they can go to bed whenever they want to and they don't have consistent discipline you'll have a kid that has some problems when they become an adult.

    >> it does come to that. if you're feeding your kid candy for breakfast perhaps you're a lousy parent or perhaps you're not there at all and, guess what, your kids end up in prison.

    >> it is about a lack of self-discipline. the study does go on, nancy, to talk about this whole issue of parents rewarding demanding behaviors. when kids want that candy , they've got to have that candy . so, by giving it to them, we are really getting away from teaching them about delay of gratification and that continues to be a problem.

    >> and then that pesky no word.

    >> that's right. they become self-indulgent and this may lead to violent behaviors when they are an adult. one thing they don't talk about, we know there are children that are very sensitive as far as their not having the neurotransmitters that allow them to remain calm and focused and sugar --

    >> that impulsive --

    >> that sugar becomes the false or the self-medication. is it possible that the kids in this study perhaps had this issue, had some underlying depression and were self-medicating on the candies when they no longer get that as adults, then they act out emotionally, behaviorally.

    >> boy, is that a stretch.

    >> i'm a psychologist, i'm allowed to do that.

    >> well, you know what, i have biostatistics, so i can't make that leap.

    >> this is actually a study that talks about sugar-sensitive individuals and i've done a lot of research on that and that is a real issue and that kids do self-medicate with the candy . the candy does help their mood. that's real. and perhaps that's part of what's going on here.

    >> is there, is there something to be said -- we self-medicate as adults with alcohol and ice cream . is there something to be said about the possibility of self-medicating with sugar? you're not buying this at all.

    >> i don't think this study proves that. i think we've done a lot of looking at this because, clearly, children who are not able to control their behaviors are a real problem. and, so, we've looked at a lot of these. we had elimination diets. the feingold diet . the parent being so involved and manipulating the child's diet gave the child more attention and the child's behavior tied not because of the dietary elimination but the parent gave the child more attention in man manipulating the diet. i just think this is such a broad explanation for a very difficult topic.

    >> and i was about to say, if it hadn't been such a forceful, bold statement, we might not even have talked about it. but leave it to those brits. it was a big, big statement.

updated 10/1/2009 4:49:31 PM ET 2009-10-01T20:49:31

Willy Wonka would be horrified. Children who eat too much candy may be more likely to be arrested for violent behavior as adults, new research suggests.

British experts studied more than 17,000 children born in 1970 for about four decades. Of the children who ate candies or chocolates daily at age 10, 69 percent were later arrested for a violent offense by the age of 34. Of those who didn't have any violent clashes, 42 percent ate sweets daily.

The study was published in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. It was paid for by Britain's Economic and Social Research Council.

The researchers said the results were interesting, but that more studies were needed to confirm the link. "It's not that the sweets themselves are bad, it's more about interpreting how kids make decisions," said Simon Moore of the University of Cardiff, one of the paper's authors.

Moore said parents who consistently bribe their children into good behavior with candies and chocolates could be doing harm. That might prevent kids from learning how to defer gratification, leading to impulsive behavior and violence.

Even after Moore and colleagues controlled for other variables like different parenting skills and varying social and economic backgrounds, they found a significant link between childhood consumption of sweets and violent behavior in adulthood.

Previous studies have found better nutrition leads to better behavior, in both children and adults.

Moore said his results were not strong enough to recommend parents stop giving their children candies and chocolates. "This is an incredibly complex area," he said. "It's not fair to blame it on the candy."

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