The relationship between sugar and ADHD is complicated, but there are several things science has told us and even more that we have witnessed first hand... enter child who just devoured an ice cream sundae!
The research linking sugar and ADHD is not entirely clear, but this is what we do know: decreasing or eliminating sugar is the most commonly-used ADHD dietary approach used by adults and second most common by caregivers according to a 2017 survey of 4000 adult readers of Additude. Respondents reported that sugar consumption negatively affected ADHD symptoms, including increased fidgeting, impulsivity, and irritability, decreased attention, and insomnia. We know that a deficit in the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine is implicated in ADHD. We also know that sugar and high fructose corn syrup increase levels of dopamine in the brain, triggering feelings of reward and pleasure. These positive feelings with sugar consumption can lead one to want more and more, which can in turn lead to the need for more and more to achieve the same effect. Ever find piles of candy wrappers hidden in your child's bedroom? Do you find yourself hiding candy in your nightstand? I see you, Karen. One study in the journal of Childhood Obesity found that sugar-sweetened beverages were the primary source of added sugar in the diet of children and adolescents. Eliminating sugar sweetened beverages, such as soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and coffee/tea (oh, the horror!) is one of the easiest approaches to reducing sugar, and empty calories, in the diet. Keep blood sugar levels balanced and you help keep the brain, and ultimately behavior, balanced too.