Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 565–577 | Cite as

Behavioral effects of sucrose on preschool children

  • Jane A. Goldman
  • Robert H. Lerman
  • John H. Contois
  • John N. UdallJr.


Despite speculation that sucrose consumption affects behavior, little empirical information is available. Accordingly, this study investigated the effect of sucrose consumption on the behavior of eight preschool children. Children were tested individually using a double-blind, crossover design. On separate mornings each child received 6 ounces of juice, sweetened on one morning with sucrose and on the other with an artificial sweetener. Children were observed for 90 minutes following the drinks, alternating between 15-minute sessions of work on structured tasks and 15-minute sessions of free play. Following the sucrose drink the children showed a decrement in performance in the structured testing situation, and they demonstrated more “inappropriate” behavior during free play. These differences in behavior were most pronounced approximately 45 to 60 minutes after the drinks. Thus, the study provides objective evidence in young children of a rather subtle, yet significant, time-dependent behavior effect of sucrose ingestion.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Behar, D., Rapoport, J. L., Adams, A. J., Berg, C. J., & Cornblath, M. (1984). Sugar challenge testing with children considered behaviorally “sugar reactive.”Nutrition and Behavior, 1, 227–288.Google Scholar
  2. Chiel, H., & Wurtman, R. (1981). Short term variations in diet composition change the patterns of spontaneous motor activity in rats.Science, 213, 676–678.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Conners, C. K. (1984). Nutritional therapy in children. In J. R. Galler (Ed.),Nutrition and behavior (pp. 159–191). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  4. Conners, C. K., & Blouin, A. G. (1982/83). Nutritional effects on behavior of children.Journal of Psychiatric Research, 17, 193–201.Google Scholar
  5. Conners, C. K., Wells, K. C., Horn, W. F., Blouin, A. G., Beerbohm, E. K., O'Donnell, D. J., Seidel, W. T., & Shaw, D. S. (in press). The effects of sucrose and fructose on classroom behavior of child psychiatric patients.Nutrition and Behavior.Google Scholar
  6. Constantini, A. F., Corsini, D. A., & Davis, J. E. (1973). Conceptual tempo, inhibition of movement and acceleration of movement in 4-, 7-, and 9-year-old children.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 37, 779–784.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Crook, W. G. (1975). Food allergy-The great masquerader.Pediatric Clinics of North America, 22, 227–238.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Ferguson, H. B., Stoddart, C., & Simeon, J. G. (1986). Double-blind challenge studies of behavioral and cognitive effects of sucrose-aspartame ingestion in normal children.Nutrition Reviews, 44, 144–150.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Galler, J. R. (1984).Nutrition and behavior. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  10. Kirk, R. E. (1968).Experimental design: Procedures for the behavioral sciences. Belmont, California: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  11. Klee, S. H., & Garfinkel, B. D. (1983). The computerized continuous performance task: A new measure of inattention.Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 11, 487–496.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Kolata, G. (1982). Food affects human behavior.Science, 218, 1209–1210.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Levy, F. (1980). The development of sustained attention (vigilance) and inhibition in children: Some normative data.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 21, 77–84.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Lipton, M. A., Nemeroff, C. B., & Mailman, R. B. (1979). Hyperkinesis and food additives. In R. J. Wurtman & J. J. Wurtman (Eds.),Nutrition and the brain (Vol. 4, pp. 1–27). New York: Raven Press.Google Scholar
  15. Maccoby, E. E., Dowly, E. M., Hagen, J. W., & Degerman, R. (1965). Activity level and intellectual functioning in normal preschool children.Child Development, 36, 761–770.Google Scholar
  16. Miller, S. A. (1981).Nutrition and behavior. Philadelphia: Franklin Institute Press.Google Scholar
  17. Morgan, K. I., & Zabik, M. E. (1981). Amount and food sources of total sugar intake by children ages 5 to 12 years.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 34, 404–413.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. O'Banion, D., Armstrong, B., Cummings, R. A., & Stange, J. (1978). Disruptive behavior: A dietary approach.Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, 8, 325–337.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Phlegar, F. L., & Phlegar, B. (1979). Diet and school children.Phi Delta Kappan, September, 162–165.Google Scholar
  20. Pickens, J. M., Burkeholder, J. N., & Womack, W. N. (1967). Oral glucose tolerance test in normal children.Diabetes, 16, 11–14.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Prinz, R. J., Roberts, W. A., & Hantman, E. (1980). Dietary correlates of hyperactive behavior in children.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 48, 760–769.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Rapp, D. (1978). Does diet affect hyperactivity?Journal of Learning Disabilities, 11, 56.Google Scholar
  23. Riddle, D. B., & Prinz, R. (1984, August).Sugar consumption in young children. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. Toronto.Google Scholar
  24. Rosvold, H. E., Mirsky, A. F., Sarason, I., Bransome, E. D., & Beck, L. H. (1956). A continuous performance test of brain damage.Journal of Consulting Psychology, 20, 343–350.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Rumsey, J. M., & Rapoport, J. L. (1983). Assessing behavioral and cognitive effects of diet in pediatric populations. In R. J. Wurtman & J. J. Wurtman (Eds.),Nutrition and the brain (Vol. 6, pp. 101–161). New York: Raven Press.Google Scholar
  26. U.S. Senate, Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. (1977).Dietary goals for the United States (2nd. ed.). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  27. Warren, J. V. (1975). Medical and toxicological issues. InSweeteners: Issues and uncertainties, National Academy of Sciences Academy Forum, Fourth of a Series (pp. 36–40). Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  28. Wolraich, M., Milich, R., Stumbo, P., & Schultz, F. (1985). Effects of sucrose ingestion on the behavior of hyperactive boys.Journal of Pediatrics, 106, 675–682.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Yokogoshi, H., Roberts, C. H., Caballero, B., & Wurtman, R. J. (1984). Effects of aspartame and glucose administration on brain and plasma levels of large neutral amino acids and brain 5-hydroxyindoles.American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 40, 1–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane A. Goldman
    • 1
  • Robert H. Lerman
    • 2
  • John H. Contois
    • 2
  • John N. UdallJr.
    • 3
  1. 1.Human Development and Family Relations ProgramUniversity of ConnecticutStorrs
  2. 2.Clinical Nutrition Unit, Evans Memorial Department of Clinical Research and Department of MedicineBoston University Medical CenterUSA
  3. 3.Clinical Research CenterMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyUSA

Personalised recommendations