Does Sugar Make ADHD Worse?

Medically Reviewed on 6/25/2021

Boy toddler is drinking soda.
While limiting sugar intake helps avoid several health conditions, there is no concrete evidence that sugar makes ADHD worse or causes hyperactivity in a person.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a chronic health condition affecting a person’s ability to stay attentive and have self-control. It is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder, which means it arises due to certain problems in the growth and development of the brain. 

The condition is generally diagnosed in childhood, when the affected child starts having problems, such as

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Problem controlling impulsive behaviors. This means they may act without thinking of the consequences. It may make them appear careless or unnecessary risk-takers.
  • Being overly active or hyperactive
  • Trouble getting along with others
  • Excessive daydreaming
  • Being fidgety or skirmish
  • Being forgetful or losing things often
  • Being too talkative
  • Having trouble resisting temptations
  • Having difficulty taking turns
  • Have difficulty getting along with others

How does sugar affect ADHD?

While limiting sugar intake helps avoid several health conditions, there is no concrete evidence that sugar makes ADHD worse or causes hyperactivity in a person. Several studies have been done to find a correlation between consuming sugar and the worsening of ADHD symptoms. These studies concluded that hyperactivity was independent of the person’s sugar intake. 

Some parents may wonder why their kids become overly active and buoyant during parties or celebrations and blame it on all the sweet treats around. This is not the reason for the increased activity. The child may be hyperactive because of playing with friends at a party or being excited about the cheerful ambiance. 

Healthy eating is important for managing ADHD symptoms. Limiting sugar also saves children from diseases, such as diabetes, dental caries, and obesity. Excessive intake of refined or processed foods and sugary foods should be avoided

Some people with ADHD are sensitive to additives, such as artificial colors and preservatives. These are commonly added to sweet treats and candies. Consuming them may worsen hyperactivity in some people.

If a particular type of food worsens ADHD symptoms in the child, discuss it with the doctor. Any foods or ingredients that worsen symptoms should be eliminated from the diet.

Healthy Habits

Since ADHD is a chronic condition, regular follow-ups to the doctor are necessary. The condition can be managed with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. Several lifestyle changes also help manage ADHD symptoms. They include

  • A healthy diet: People with ADHD are advised to consume plenty of unprocessed foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. A high protein diet containing lean meat and nuts is also advisable. Restrict intake of sugary or processed foods, such as cookies, cakes, candies, and chips. Cutting down on processed foods also helps the child eat more nutrient-rich foods. If the child is having a dessert craving, add some diced fruits and nuts to their custard or ice cream. This will satisfy their sweet tooth while providing them with the essential nutrients and antioxidants.
  • Ample of physical activity: Studies have shown that regular exercise helps manage ADHD symptoms besides maintaining overall health.
  • Adequate sleep and rest: Lack of sleep may worsen ADHD symptoms. The person must get sufficient sleep according to their age. While physical activity is essential, sufficient rest and stress-relieving activities, such as meditation, are also important.
  • Limit the daily screen time: Minimize the use of TVs, laptops, phones, and other electronic devices.


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Medically Reviewed on 6/25/2021
Ansel K. Sugar: Does it Really Cause Hyperactivity? Eatright. September 21, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What Is ADHD?