Sunday, August 2, 2015

Avoiding toxic sugar overload

You wouldn't hand your 7-year-old a cigarette and a beer - but University of California researchers say the overload of sugar in the diets of kids (and adults) is just as bad for health.

Avoiding toxic sugar overload

A new report published this month contends that sugar contributes to heart disease, diabetes and cancer that kill 35 million people around the world each year. (Larry Crowe / AP Photo)
A new report published this month contends that sugar contributes to heart disease, diabetes and cancer that kill 35 million people around the world each year. (Larry Crowe / AP Photo)

You wouldn’t hand your 7-year-old a cigarette and a beer, but University of California researchers say the overload of sugar in the diets of kids—and adults—is just as bad for health.

Their new report, published earlier this month in the journal Nature, contends that sugar contributes to heart disease, diabetes and cancer that kill 35 million people around the world each year.

The news is making me think twice about the sweetened yogurt, 100-calorie pack of cookies, and even the whole-grain crackers my child takes in her lunch —as well as the hot chocolate I make on cold mornings, her favorite granola and all of the snacks kids are offered at every turn. (Like the 600-calorie soft drink and cookie snack handed out one day at her soccer practice … more calories and sugar than any little kid could run off!)

It all adds up. You’d never feed a toddler 14 teaspoons of sugar—but that’s how much the average 3-year-old gets daily in her food, one Pennsylvania State University study found.  Older kids eat even more: 21 teaspoons a day for 4- to 8-year-olds and up to 34 teaspoons a day for 14- to 18-year olds, according to the American Heart Association. That’s way more than the 3 teaspoons a day of total added sugars recommended for little kids and the 5 to 8 teaspoons a day recommended for teens by the heart association.

More coverage
What a difference a year makes

Don’t worry about the natural sugar in fruit, milk or grains. Do wise up about added sugars.  A big fountain soda can pack 15 teaspoons, a big fruit smoothie about 12. A fruit-flavored yogurt may have 5 teaspoons of added sugar; a pack of peanut-butter crackers, about 6.  There are added sweeteners in everything from fish sticks and barbecue sauce to pork n’ beans, peanut butter, and lunch meats, too.

Why worry? The new understanding about sugar is that it’s more than empty calories. Health researchers are beginning to understand that sweeteners of all sorts—old-fashioned cane sugar, ubiquitous and much-reviled high-fructose corn syrup, even earthy-crunchy “alternative sweeteners” like agave syrup and unrefined sugar—mess with metabolism. Sugar boosts blood pressure, damages the liver, raises cholesterol and triglyceride levels (and so boosts heart disease risk) and changes the way hormones in the body work. “Sugar,” said one University of California researcher, “is toxic beyond its calories.”

What you can do: One way to get a grip on sugar in your household is by buying products with lower levels of added sweeteners. Do it by comparing the grams of sugar listed on the nutrition facts panel for different brands of the same food (like crackers or cereal). That can get a little tricky, because the label doesn’t differentiate between natural sugars found in fruit, grains and dairy products and the stuff added at the food factory. Find the added sugars by reading the ingredients list. If a sweetener’s high on the list—or if a product contains several different sweeteners—you may want to think twice.

Hidden sweeteners to watch for: Sugar goes by many aliases. These include high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar and brown sugar as well as agave nectar, cane crystals, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, sucrose and syrup.

What about you? Any tips for reducing sugar consumption by kids?

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog
Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Sarah Levin Allen, Ph.D., CBIS Assistant Professor of Psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Temple University Hospital
Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Christopher C. Chang, MD, PhD, MBA, FAAAAI, FACAAI Associate Professor of Medicine in division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology at UC Davis
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist of The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Gary A. Emmett, M.D., F.A.A.P Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Magee DeFelice, M.D. Division Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Chief of Pediatric Emergency Services at Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Crozer-Keystone Health System
Jessica Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D Associate Professor in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Registered Dietitian at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Emiliano Tatar, M.D. Pediatrician at Einstein Healthcare Network Roxborough Plaza
Jeanette Trella, Pharm.D Managing Director at The Poison Control Center at CHOP
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D., ABPP Director of Integrated Health Care for American Psychological Association
Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D. Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
Latest Health Videos
Also on
letter icon Newsletter