Uninformed people have made a connection between sugar and ADHD. Several studies have already cleared up this misunderstanding, and now there’s another one out.
The results suggest that there is no association between sucrose consumption between 6 and 11 years of age and incidence of ADHD.Del-Ponte et al., 2019
What the ignorants says …
Numerous studies have looked at the relationship between refined sugar and ADHD. Most indicate sugar does not play a role, while mothers in the trenches with children bouncing off the walls often disagree.Dale Archer M.D., 2014 on PsychologyToday.com
Arguably, one of the most influential studies indicating that sugar plays no role in ADHD was published in 1985 by Dr. Mark Wolraich, which looked at 16 hyperactive boys over three days. On day one, learning was monitored in order to achieve a baseline. The boys were then either given a sucrose 1.75 mg/kg or a placebo drink at different times during the following two days. The test revealed no difference between the boys’ behavioural or cognitive actions, whether they drank sucrose or placebo. Critics emphasized the study was in an artificial setting, thus not representative of the real world (Dale Archer, 2014).
What the Science says …
Sucrose, also known as table sugar or refined sugar, is a carbohydrate that, when hydrolyzed by digestive enzymes, is converted into glucose and fructose. Sucrose is rapidly metabolized by the human body and thus is a rapid energy source (Lehninger, 2002).
The main source of sucrose is sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum). Through an industrial process, sugar cane is transformed into a solid crystalline product. Sugar is a widely commercialized product, frequently used in foods, including for children (Welsh et al., 2011).
The mechanism through which sugar consumption is a biologically plausible determinant of ADHD is thought to involve higher release of extracellular dopamine (a monoaminergic neurotransmitter in the catecholamine family) in the area of the striatum, and is related to the reward system (Schwartz et al., 2000).
Over the long term, sugar consumption would lead to desensitisation of dopaminergic receptors, which would result in the need for increased intake, as a compensatory mechanism, in order to obtain the same level of satisfaction. This would consequently lead to a progressive reduction in dopamine response after sugar consumption. This dopaminergic signalling dysfunction would promote inhibition of the control mechanisms of the frontal cortex, which is an area directly related to the neurobiology of ADHD (Johnson et al., 2011).
Several studies focusing on the association between sugar consumption and attention deficit and/or hyperactivity have been conducted. In 1995, Wolraich et al. (2016) conducted a meta-analysis that included 16 experimental studies. They concluded that sugar consumption did not pose any threat of attention deficit and/or hyperactivity among children.
More recent studies have presented conflicting results: some suggested that there might be a positive association between sugar-rich food consumption or feeding patterns and ADHD (Azadbakht and Esmaillzadeh, 2012, Lien et al., 2006, Park et al., 2012, Wiles et al., 2009, Howard et al., 2011), while others did not find this association (Peacock et al., 2011, Kim and Chang, 2011).
In the light of the inconsistency among the findings, the objective of the present study was to evaluate the effect of sugar consumption and the prevalence of ADHD among children aged 6 and 11 years, along with the incidence of ADHD between 6 and 11 years of age, in the 2004 Pelotas Birth Cohort (Del-Ponte et al., 2019)
ADDspeaker says …
This topic is getting so old, but still people try to muddy the waters by throwing some idea out in public, which then takes focus away from researching for new treatments of ADHD, sadly.
Neuroscience 101 …
Neuroscience is the science of how our brain (and body) works on the neuronal level. Its complicated stuff, but nonetheless majorly important to understand, if you wish to shut up the haters and the ignorants, when they proclaim ‘how dangerous ADHD-medication is’ … This is a part of a course on Medical Neuroscience from DUKE University so its from the absolute Ivy League education on Neuroscience.
Neurons in the brain are the pathways which connects the body to the brain (sensory/motor neurons) as well as the various parts of the brain networks.
The neurons contain synapses which are electro-chemical connections that uses either/or electrical or chemical signals to send information from one neuron to the next, to relay information from the sensory systems to the brain and from the brain to the motor systems in the body.
There are to two types of synaptic actions, excitatory and inhibitory. Excitatory are those that create actions from thoughts and inhibitory are those that inhibit thoughts from being manifested as actions. Actions could be a thought being transmitted from the mind to brain which then instructs the motor system (the lips and larynx) to produce sounds which is what becomes verbal communication – you speak.
Between the synapses there is a gap called the Synaptic Cleft and you can imagine this as being a WiFi network where information is send from one node to another, without any physical connection. WiFi uses electrical signals (frequencies of sound waves) to communicate and synapses uses chemicals to communicate.
The chemicals produce neurotransmitters which are used as delivery agents (like a mailman) to send information from one synapse to another. One of the most important neurotransmitters in the human brain is called Dopamine.
Dopamine is part of the brain’s reward system and is excitatory in nature. Dopamine is released when something that the brain wishes the body to do, is done.ADDspeaker
This actually also applies to thoughts as well, which is why happy thoughts produces a positive feeling ;-). One of the properties of Dopamine is to regulate the level of reward sensation given per what action is produced. An example is hunger. If the body needs energy it instructs the brain (stimulus) to eat (action) and the brain rewards the body with a reward (dopamine).
Since Dopamine is used in many systems and on many levels within the reward system, it is so cleverly made that it can turn up or down the reward given for each action. If you perform an action over and over again, then the dopamine reward system will diminish the reward for that particular action over time, meaning that the same thing over and over again will decrease the level of Dopamine released by that action. This is known as Habituation.
This is due to the fact that the brain needs to be able to control the actions by motivating the body to perform the actions which is needed right now, not just those which it gets the most reward from. So sex once in a while will give you high doses of Dopamine, whereas sex all the time will give you less doses of Dopamine.
Heroin and other drugs works the same way, the first hit creates a massive Dopamine release and every hit from there on will only create less Dopamine reward each time, which is why all addicts chases that illusive first high, by increasing their consumption gradually over time, gaining only less and less reward.
Sugar or Glucose, is one of the few chemicals that can penetrate the blood/brain barrier and enter from the bloodstream into the brain. This is because the brain runs on sugar as its energy source and therefore the brain needs sugar to operate. Especially the prefrontal cortex where the Executive Functions lives are in high demand of Glucose for its functioning.
This is why ADHD-medication increases the production of Dopamine and why sugar is no problem for people with ADHD – at all. Actually it is not uncommon to use slow metabolising sugar to help the brain focus and concentrate as well as give it energy to function.
So sugar don’t cause or worsen ADHD symptoms, it actually diminishes them!ADDspeaker
What the haters says …
Organisations such as Scientology is known to hate psychiatry and have spend millions of dollars on fake news about mental disorders, ADHD in particular. (CCHR, 2019).
The reason is almost so laughable, if it wasn’t so hurtful to all the children growing up with a highly treatable mental disorder that shortens your life with 12.7 years (Barkley et al., 2018) if not treated as early as possible, since the reason they (Scientology) hates psychiatry is based on the fact that the established medical professions rejected L. Ron Hubbard’s ‘Dianetics’ and sent him packing. This causes LHR to proclaim that psychiatry was a hoax and that he could cure disorders such as Bipolar Disorder by isolating the patient in a locked room for weeks on end ‘until the illness ran its cause and self-cured‘ (Leah Remini et al., 2018).
What if all the time we spend on disapproving the obvious, just to help the public understand this mental disorder, went to research on ADHD to make our lives better for our children instead?
Please help us spread the truth, don’t be just another ignorant – educate yourself!ADDspeaker, 2019
Sugar consumption and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A birth cohort study.
Del-Ponte B, Anselmi L, Assunção MCF, Tovo-Rodrigues L, Munhoz TN, Matijasevich A, Rohde LA, Santos IS.
J Affect Disord. 2019 Jan 15;243:290-296.
Epub 2018 Sep 17.
PMID: 30257225 Free PMC Article
Hyperactive Child Syndrome and Estimated Life Expectancy at Young Adult Follow-Up: The Role of ADHD Persistence and Other Potential Predictors. Barkley RA, Fischer M.
J Atten Disord. 2018 Dec 10:1087054718816164.
[Epub ahead of print]