After years of believing that they should cut sweets out of their children’s diets to counter hyperactivity, parents might do well to look elsewhere for curbs to inattention, according to two studies released this month.
In one study, researchers from Vanderbilt University and the University of Iowa reported that sucrose and aspartame (the artificial sweetener known widely by the brand name Nutrasweet) have no significant effect on the behavior of preschool- and school-age children.
“Even when intake exceeds typical dietary levels, neither dietary sucrose nor aspartame affects children’s behavior or cognitive function,’' the study’s authors wrote.
The differences that were detected between the sweeteners suggest that sucrose actually had a slight calming effect on some children.
Forty-eight children ages 3 through 10 participated in the study, which was published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers tested the sweeteners by rotating the children through three weeklong diets sweetened by sucrose, aspartame, and saccharin.
Even the 23 children whose parents had described them as “sugar sensitive’’ showed no ill effects from the sweeteners. And only one child’s parents were able to correctly identify the sequence of sweeteners used over the three-week period.
Another study examined the effects of aspartame on the behavior of 15 children diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder.
The study, published this month in Pediatrics, a publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics, also found that even at 10 times the amount considered normal, aspartame had no adverse effects on the children’s attention or impulsivity.
The Yale University researchers chose to look at the effects on children with A.D.D. because they are more likely to consume aspartame and because they are a population likely to be highly susceptible to the kinds of complaints associated with the sweetener.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a policy statement on the transportation of students with disabilities. The guidelines cover the transportation of wheelchairs, appropriate kinds of auto seats for children, and planning of transportation services within a school system.
The statement was published in the January issue of Pediatrics.
A version of this article appeared in the February 23, 1994 edition of Education Week as Special Education Column