Even though children with ADHD have different brain chemistry, sugar does not interfere with their brain function. However, the overall recommendation is to limit the amount of sugar that the child consumes, both as a precaution and for dietary reasons.
Learning and Memory
In 1985, Dr. Mark Wolraich did a study on the effects of sugar intake on learning and memory. Parents of ADHD children worried that too much sugar not only affected their children's behavior, but interfered in their ability to perform in school. In Wolraich's study, sixteen hyperactive children were observed for three days in a hospital setting. During those days, the children's sugar levels were controlled; the results showed that sugar intake had no effect on an ADHD child's learning and memory. However, Dr. Anthony Kane, author of the article “The Role of Sugar in ADHD” notes that the small sample size and the short testing period leaves room for error in the study.
Many parents believe that their ADHD children becomes more hyperactive when they ingest sugar. In 1994, Dr. Richard Milich examined 31 hyperactive children whose parents believed were behaviorally sensitive to sugar. All of the children were given sugar-free drinks; however, half of their parents were told that the drinks contained sugar. The parents who thought their children had sugar stated that they were more hyperactive. Dr. Milich concluded that parental expectations and their subsequent behavior was their preconception that sugar resulted in hyperactivity.
However, although studies on sugar and ADHD have shown that there is not an effect on learning and memory or hyperactivity, another study questioned if ADHD children processed sugar differently.