A Sweet Tooth


"My 9-year-old daughter craves sweet foods. She is naturally slim, and her appetite diminishes further when she's on her stimulant medication. Does ADHD cause a craving for sweets? What can I do?"

Dr. Larry Silver specializes in treating children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

Two answers are possible. First, if the medication curbs her appetite, she might eat sweets simply because they are appealing. (Imagine this scenario: You are at a restaurant and have stuffed yourself. The waiter asks if you want more bread and butter and you almost gag. Then the waiter brings around a tray of attractive, colorful, sweet things and suddenly you are hungry enough to say yes.) The other possibility is that some individuals seem to crave carbohydrates while taking a stimulant medication. However, we do not know why this happens.

What to do? Try taking her off her medication for a week and keep track of her eating patterns. Observe whether she eats more overall and if the craving for sweets decreases. If necessary, discuss the situation with her physician. You may need to switch her to a medication that does not curb her appetite.

Larry Silver, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He is a former acting director and deputy director of the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as the author of Dr. Larry Silver's Advice to Parents on AD/HD and The Misunderstood Child: Understanding and Coping with Your Child's Learning Disabilities.
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