The Sugar Debate
Most parents of children with ADHD — 84 percent of 302 parents in one 2003 study — believe that sugar has a negative effect on their kids' behavior. And many adults with ADHD are convinced that sugar worsens their symptoms as well.
But medical experts still tend to discount any link between behavior and sugar or artificial sweeteners. As evidence, they point to a pair of studies that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. "Effects of Diets High in Sucrose or Aspartame on the Behavior and Cognitive Performance of Children" (February 3, 1994) found that "even when intake exceeds typical dietary levels, neither dietary sucrose nor aspartame affects children's behavior or cognitive function." A similar study, "The Effect of Sugar on Behavior or Cognition in Children" (November 22, 1995), reached much the same conclusion — though the possibility that sugar may have a mild effect on certain children "cannot be ruled out," according to the study's authors.
In any case, sugar carries loads of calories and has no real nutritional value. People who eat lots of sweets may be missing out on essential nutrients that might keep them calm and focused. Since ADHD medications tend to blunt the appetite, it's important to make every calorie count.