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Sugar and Hyperactivity

Abstract: Too much sugar might have some hyperactivity effect for a very short time but cannot influence the outcome of ADHD.

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Sugar and Hyperactivity

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Written by: Martin Winkler
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 22 Jul 2008.

Does sugar cause hyperactivity? Does sugar cause ADHD? Should I restrict sugar to treat conduct problems?


No! Despite clinical research results to the contrary many parents and even some doctors believe that sugar intake is linked to hyperactivity or mood swings in children. A long time ago special diets (Feingold) were used to reduce symptoms of these children. Other parents postulated phosphate or food additives to cause adhd-like-symptoms. They might have some effect for a very short time but cannot influence the outcome of adhd. Actually they are very hard to handle and might cause additional psychological problems because your child will not like them at all.

There might be a small subgroup of adhd-children with a special sensitivity for some food. Trials of sugar restriction or diets should be restricted to 3 or 4 weeks. A subgroup of children (1-3 %) might show limited benefit, so it could be worth a trial. But diets and restrictive eating patterns are a main cause for the development of eating disorders. Since we have no scientific basis for such an attempt you should better use a multimodal treatment approach.

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