ADHD and Sugar: Information for Parents

Is it true that sugar causes or contributes to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Take a quick look at these facts before nixing sweets.

It’s a myth that sugar makes kids hyperactive. Nevertheless, you might think about helping your child cut back not only on sugary foods but also on other foods that tend to make blood sugar skyrocket, such as white rice and cereals with little fiber.

In addition to affecting blood sugar, these highly processed foods are notoriously low in important vitamins and minerals (although cereal manufacturers add some of them back in).

Remember, steady blood sugar levels benefit the brain, whether a child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or not. But hyperactive children may have particular problems metabolizing sugar. It’s worth noting that the hallmarks of low blood sugar include problems with attention and focus, moodiness, and frustration.

Nixing sugar also helps starve out the harmful fungi and bacteria in the digestive tract that thrive on sugary foods and contribute to food sensitivities/allergies and imbalanced immune function. It’s interesting to note that overgrowth of harmful bacteria like clostridia has been linked to another childhood developmental condition, autism.

The National Institute of Mental Health says the following about sugar:

The idea that refined sugar causes ADHD or makes symptoms worse is popular, but more research discounts this theory than supports it. In one study, researchers gave children foods containing either sugar or a sugar substitute every other day. The children who received sugar showed no different behavior or learning capabilities than those who received the sugar substitute.

In another study, children who were considered sugar-sensitive by their mothers were given the sugar substitute aspartame, also known as Nutrasweet. Although all the children got aspartame, half their mothers were told their children were given sugar, and the other half were told their children were given aspartame. The mothers who thought their children had gotten sugar rated them as more hyperactive than the other children and were more critical of their behavior, compared to mothers who thought their children received aspartame.

See Also:
How to Break a Sugar Habit
Online Resources for ADHD

Sources: Food Cures, National Institute of Mental Health

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest