There's been a couple of occasions recently which have led me to ask myself this very question.
It was Daisy's birthday yesterday so last weekend was spent at her grandparents, the highlight of which was a little party with some of our friends and their little ones. Daisy had been showered with gifts and attention and had a thoroughly wonderful time. At about 5pm she started to get tired and even at one point took herself to bed saying she was sleepy, I could see she wouldn't last much longer so hurried Mr R to do the birthday cake. Normal birthday cake traditions ensued, lights off, candles lit and toddler sobbing to the sound of Happy Birthday! Surely it's the same at every party ;)
Next, everyone has cake and the magic happens - my previously exhausted little girl is up, dancing, playing and generally having a wonderful time. She finally went off to bed about 8pm! I know what you're thinking, paranoid helicopter mum, convinced any change in behaviour is due to sugar and additives but hear me out....
The next night Daisy went to bed as normal but when we went also went off to bed at 10.30pm (yeah I know, but it was a school night and kids parties are seriously exhausting!) she was still singing Incy Wincey Spider and chatting away to herself. Lying in bed listening to her conversation with the gang (Doggy, Panda and Monkey for those of you who aren't in the know); I remembered Mr R had decided, in his wisdom, to offer her a slice of her birthday cake at 7pm instead of the yogurt I had suggested?
So was it the cake fuelling her party persona and chatty bedtimes or just a come down from a fun filled weekend?
Recent research says no, it's not the sugar and apparently it's all in my head. A study took place in which parents were led to believe their children had consumed sugary foods one day and not on another. The parents were asked about their children's behaviour on each day and apparently reported an increase in hyperactive behaviour on the day they'd had sugar. However the two days had been switched and the children had in fact had no sugar that day, leading to the conclusion its parents expectations of their children's behaviour after eating sugar which leads to false assumptions they are riding a sugar rush to rival willy wonka!
Speak to fellow parents however and they say otherwise, convinced that their children turn into Duracell bunnies after sweets, cake or the dreaded fruit shoots. Personally I've certainly never had an evening like this with D, she seemed perfectly happy but just couldn't switch off.
For me, I'm tempted to take a bold move, doubt science (or the above study at least) and keep an open mind. In D's case, maybe it was the sugar, maybe the weekends events, maybe both - who knows? But I can promise you I'll be erring on the side of caution in future and banning cake before bedtime!