"We think that it is more to do with the way that sweets are given to children rather than the sweets themselves," Moore said. "Using sweets to quiet noisy children might just reinforce problems for later in life."
Other experts were skeptical of the findings.
"While it's an interesting correlation, any scientist will tell you that a correlation never shows causation," said Melinda Johnson, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "If there is any real link, my instinct is that the daily candy may be indicative of certain lifestyle factors that the researchers did not capture. For example, I do not see that the researchers were able to control for violence in the home. Perhaps children who end up violent as adults also tend to grow up in violent homes, and perhaps candy is used excessively as an 'ease the pain' tool."
Another possibility is that a diet high in sweets is indicative of poor nutrition overall, which could have led to abnormal brain growth during a critical period of development, Johnson added.
Aside from the risk of turning children into criminals, there are many other good reasons to limit sweets, Johnson said.
Candy is short on vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats that children need to grow and thrive, Johnson said. Instead of a treat, children often need a parent's undivided attention.
"I see no reason to tell parents to be frightened of giving their children candy in moderation, as long as the overall diet of the child is well-rounded," Johnson said.
The Nemours Foundation has tips on getting children to eat a healthy diet.
SOURCES: Simon Moore, Ph.D., senior lecturer, Cardiff University, Wales; Melinda Johnson, R.D., spokeswoman, American Diet
All rights reserved