Hyperactivity: is candy causal?
Krummel DA, Seligson FH, Guthrie HA
West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown.
Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 1996 Jan; 36(1-2):31-47


Adverse behavioral responses to ingestion of any kind of candy have been reported repeatedly in the lay press. Parents and teachers alike attribute excessive motor activity and other disruptive behaviors to candy consumption. However, anecdotal observations of this kind need to be tested scientifically before conclusions can be drawn, and criteria for interpreting diet behavior studies must be rigorous. Ingredients in nonchocolate candy (sugar, artificial food colors), components in chocolate candy (sugar, artificial food colors in coatings, caffeine), and chocolate itself have been investigated for any adverse effects on behavior. Feingold theorized that food additives (artificial colors and flavors) and natural salicylates caused hyperactivity in children and elimination of these components would result in dramatic improvement in behavior. Numerous double-blind studies of the Feingold hypothesis have led to the rejection of the idea that this elimination diet has any benefit beyond the normal placebo effect. Although sugar is widely believed by the public to cause hyperactive behavior, this has not been scientifically substantiated. Twelve double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of sugar challenges failed to provide any evidence that sugar ingestion leads to untoward behavior in children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or in normal children. Likewise, none of the studies testing candy or chocolate found any negative effect of these foods on behavior. For children with behavioral problems, diet-oriented treatment does not appear to be appropriate. Rather, clinicians treating these children recommend a multidisciplinary approach. The goal of diet treatment is to ensure a balanced diet with adequate energy and nutrients for optimal growth.

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