Many parents allow their kids indulge in excessive sugar intake because they often say that kids are energetic and would burn up all those calories. However, research indicates suggests that swallowing excessive amounts of sugar is just as dangerous for kids as it is for grown-ups.
The CDC and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans both recommend that kids age 1 and older should, like adults, get less than 10% of their daily calories from sugar. The American Heart Association (AHA), meanwhile, recommends that children age two and younger should have no added sugar in their diet at all. But research presented last year by CDC scientists found that 60% of children under the age of 12 months consume at least some added sugar, and that the average daily added-sugar intake among kids between 1 and 2 years old ranges from 5.5 to 7 teaspoons, which works out to between 23 and 29 grams, approximately.
How is sugar harmful to kids?
Cohen’s research has found that toddlers who drink beverages sweetened with added sugar, as well as children born to mothers who drank these beverages while pregnant, tend to score worse on childhood intelligence and aptitude tests. High fructose corn syrup, a sweetener that turns up in many artificially sweetened beverages—as well as in many packaged sweets—may be especially harmful. “It appears that high fructose corn syrup may be impacting hippocampal function during important periods of development,” says Cohen. The hippocampus plays an important role in learning and memory formation.
A 2018 Purdue University study found that the greatest source of sugar in the average kid’s diet is sugary beverages like fruit juice, soda, and sports drinks. A related 2015 study in the journal Nutrition found kids who consumed soda, fruit juice, and other sugary drinks tended to weigh more than kids who did not. Also, when some of the kids in the study swapped out their sugary juice or soda for either milk or water, their body weights tended to drop. More researchhas found that, as a child’s added-sugar intake rises, so does that child’s risk for hypertension, fatty liver disease, and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions.
The obvious solution, recommended by most experts, is to avoid processed or packaged foods. For parents who don’t have the time or resources to prepare food from scratch, experts suggest shopping for peanut butters, breakfast cereals, and other packaged products that contain little or no added sugar. On the other hand, fruits, vegetables, unsweetened milk or yogurt, and other whole foods that naturally contain sugar are all healthy additions to a child’s diet.
Parents be warned. Summer is here again and there is this tendency to overindulge. But if you are going to do just one thing, you should encourage your children to drink water or milk rather than the sugary beverages that are the greatest source of added sugar in the average child’s diet.