ADHD and Sugar: Are the Behavior Rumors True?


ADHD kids running. Screaming. Books flying everywhere. What do most teachers do? Yell. Kick them out to the principal’s office. Infinity…

Ask many teachers why are teens with ADHD wrought with bad behavior? It’s excessive sugar.

Lindamood-Bell, Washington, DC

Bad student behavior. The ADHD kids and teens were off the hook. Not with me…Why?

Staff meetings, too many to count. Employees and parents went to blows. Everyone was looking for a solution. Too bad they had nowhere to start. Establishing a baseline helped. Are there universal opinions to use in these situations?

  • Parents and staff agreed that sugar made teens with ADHD hyper.
  • Some thought that sugar causes ADHD.
  • There was no immediate way to calm them down.
  • A University of Florida study provides serious back-up on parental positive beliefs on the negative effects of sugar on ADHD.
    • African American parents: 59% agreed
    • White: 30% agreed
  • Canadian studies show even higher numbers.
    • Parents: 80% agreed
    • Teachers: 55% agreed

Adolescents with ADHD number 3.3 million (13.6%). Of those, about 50% are reported as having behavior or conduct problems. In a study of ADHD parents, there were significant concerns about behavior.

  • 60% children with ADHD have emotional, mental, or behavioral disorders.
  • About 30% teens with ADHD suffer from anxiety disorder.
  • Teens with ADHD are sometimes diagnosed with challenges that also impact behavior.
    • Depression
    • Substance abuse
    • Tourette Syndrome
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
    • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

With those numbers, what can parents do about their teens with ADHD and the effects of sugar. I identified more than 20 “blind” studies. The answers must be somewhere.

We want answers. Look ahead.


Lancent Pediatrics (medical journal)

  • Parents unconvinced
    • Less likely to listen to others
    • “Spreads the word,” their beliefs
  • Yes, they need more research
    • Teens with ADHD already worked up
    • Excited about coming food

Harvard University

  • No support for the Feingold Diet (Improve behavioral problems by elimination).
    • Food preservatives
    • Colors
    • Sweeteners
    • Selected fruit and vegetables
    • Salicylate-containing foods
  • Hard to monitor 24/7.
  • Difficult to evaluate elimination diets.

Subsequently stated that there was no consensus.

Mark Wolraich (medical journal)

  • Sugar doesn’t cause hyperactivity.
  • Excessive sugar doesn’t aggravate behavior.
  • No impact on cognitive performance.
  • Doesn’t cause ADHD.

     However, these results are impacted by subsets.

Mayo Clinic

  • Don’t believe that foods cause ADHD.
  • Can worsen ADHD symptoms.
  • Cause behaviors that mimic the signs of ADHD.

Action Steps for Parents

Okay, what does this mean? The longitudinal study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) gives suggestions. Revisiting the hypothesis that suggests excessive sugar may lead to negative ADHD symptoms (chronic sugar intake, dopamine, omega-3 fatty acids).

Harvard University’s research provided suggestions for parents. Basically, they recommend the same diet and nutrition for everyone. Overall health is the key.

  • Emphasize fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose whole grains over rapidly-digested carbohydrates.
  • Seek good sources of protein.
  • Use unsaturated fats (avoid trans fats).
  • Limit fast food.

When will there be irrefutable proof of the impact of excessive sugar and ADHD? It certainly isn’t now. For now, follow Harvard University. Create a healthy teen, mental and physical. It works in many ways.

Research continues…

QUESTION: Let us know, do you believe that sugar impacts ADHD?



, ,




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.