Sugar restriction usually refers to limiting the amount of sucrose in the diet. While most of the studies examined sucrose restriction, some also examined restriction of fructose or glucose. The artificial sweetener employed as a placebo was most frequently aspartame, but several studies used saccharin or both aspartame and saccharin as separate conditions. The type of sweetener used did not seem to affect the results.
Sugar restriction has been studied as a treatment for children since 1982. There have been a total of 23 appropriate objective studies contained within 16 reports employing a wide variety of types of children, including children with ADHD and aggression as well as normal children, and varying in age from preschool children to adolescents. All of the studies with two exceptions were challenge crossover studies in which children were challenged with drinks containing either sugar (sucrose in most studies) or an artificial sweetener (mostly aspartame). The other two studies consisted of giving the children diets that were high in sucrose content or low in sucrose and sweetened with aspartame or saccharin. A meta-analysis of the 23 studies did not find any significant behavioral or cognitive effects from sugar. There were not enough studies to reach a definitive conclusion, and there was insufficient statistical power to detect small effects or to detect effects on a small subset of children. To date, there is not enough evidence to warrant the recommendation to restrict a child's sugar intake for the purpose of improving the child's behavior or cognitive functioning.
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