Meta-analysis of 16 published studies conducted over a period of 12 years from 1982 to 1994 was used to examine the effects of sugar, mainly sucrose, on the behavior or cognition of children with attention deficit disorder and reported from the Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. In studies selected, subjects had consumed a known quantity of sugar; a placebo (artificial sweetener) control had been used; subjects, parents and researchers were blind to the conditions; and statistics had been used to compute the dependent measures effect sizes. Most investigators had used doses per kgm body wt ranging from 1.25 to 5.6 g. Aspartame was used as placebo in 13. No effect of sugar on behavior or cognitive performance of these children could be demonstrated by meta-analysis of the data. A small effect of sugar in the total group or effects on subsets of ADHD children could not be ruled out. [1]

COMMENT. The controversy regarding sugar and behavior and cognition continues. Despite this and other studies negating an adverse effect of sugar, parents and some physicians cite sucrose as a frequent trigger of hyperactive behavior and inattention in children. The authors admit that a small adverse effect may be overlooked in a meta-analysis involving few controlled studies with selected patients. (see Progress in Pediatric Neurology II, 1994. pp 516-19, for other articles on diet and behavior).