What Sugar Does To Your Kids

Let's start with the good news…kids are consuming less sugar now than they were in 2000. However now in 2015, a higher percent of their total calories comes from added sugar. Added sugar can put kids at risk for obesity and other health problems.

Kids may be more sensitive to sugar then adults, they even seem to be biologically wired to crave it. Children in this country eat the equivalent of 34 teaspoons of sugar per day. Compare that to the 22 teaspoons adults consume on average, both of which are significantly higher than the recommended 6-teaspoon-per-day limit for adults. 

A study in The Lancet reviewed the link between childhood obesity and sugar consumption. Research found that children who consume sugar-sweetened drinks had the highest probability of being obese.

Hyperactive children seem to metabolize sugar differently in response to high-sugar meals. These kids increase their output of the stress hormone called cortisol, which plays an important role in regulating blood sugar levels. Studies of children’s high-sugar diets show that while activity levels go up for both normal and hyperactive kids, the hyperactive kids also become aggressive.

Starting healthy eating habits early with your children is imperative to ensuring they become healthy adults. Studies show that when your child eats a low-sugar breakfast, they can be more productive at school with an improved attention span and short-term memory. 

One study done recently in the Bay Area showed how much a child’s health can be improved by eliminating sugar from their diet for just ten days. By reducing sugar, even without reducing calories, the study proved that sugar is toxic because it’s sugar, not just because it has extra calories.

There are many ways to get your kids more involved in the preparation of healthy family meals and desserts – PBS Parents has great recipes (like these blueberry oatmeal muffins), and most counties have programs to help families be more healthy. By, the way, have you read the Potter the Otter books? Potter encourages kids to drink more water – another important way to keep kids healthy.

For the “sweet” holidays coming up - Christmas Valentine’s and Easter - you might adapt the Halloween Switch Witch idea – take away the candy and leave a special gift in its place.

Why Too Much Sugar is a Dangerous Thing

too much sugar dangerous enjoy vibrant health

The World Health Organization currently recommends that no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from sugar – and they are considering new guidelines to lower that to 5% for the average adult, which is about 6 teaspoons (25gm).

You might think 6 spoonfuls of sugar is plenty for anyone, but do you really know where sugar is hiding in everyday foods, not including fruits and veggies?
  • 12oz can of soda: 8 tsp  (39gm)
  • 8oz of fruit yogurt: 4 tsp  (19gm)
  • ½ cup pasta sauce: 2+ tsp  (12gm)
  • 1 bagel: 1+ tsp  (6gm)
The average sugar intake for a person in the US is 22 teaspoons per day - nearly 4x the recommended guidelines! Did you know that drinking just one can of soda a day can lead to 15 pounds of weight gain per year?

To keep the appropriate level of sugar (glucose) moving through your blood stream so your body releases the right amount of insulin (the hormone that converts food into usable energy), you need only 1 teaspoon of sugar at any given time in your body.

Insulin works by stimulating your cells to pull excess sugar out of your bloodstream, otherwise glucose builds up in your blood, leading to insulin resistance. Symptoms of insulin resistance include high blood pressure, weight gain around the middle, brain fog and fatigue.

Dr. Robert Lustig from UCSF says our bodies can safely metabolize only 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day. He also agrees that the majority of excess sugar we ingest becomes fat, which can lead to diabetes. Over the last 30 years, cases of diabetes in the US have risen by 128%, affecting over 25 million people.
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What are other dangers of too much sugar in your diet?

  • Metabolic diseases such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, heart disease
  • Insulin resistance - with too much insulin, glucose builds up in your blood, causing brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, high blood pressure
  • Liver damage - the liver metabolizes sugar the same way that it metabolizes alcohol
  • Brain function - high levels of sugar consumption can increase and the risk for Alzheimer's
The AMA has reported that people who consume too much added sugar will likely have elevated blood triglyceride levels (fat in the blood) and lower HDL (good cholesterol), whereas those who eat very little sugar can reduce their triglycerides and raise their HDL. By removing sugar from your diet for even a few weeks, you can improve your cholesterol considerably.

There have been warnings about the dangers of sugar since the 1950s. John Yudkin, professor of nutrition at Queen College in London, argued when it came to heart disease and other chronic diseases, “it's sugar, not fat that's the culprit."

How we can support proper blood sugar and insulin levels?

  • Eat a well-balanced, plant-based diet with plenty of vegetables, protein, whole grains and healthy fats
  • Reduce your sugar intake to 6 teaspoons a day by limiting concentrated sources, such as refined carbohydrates and sodas
  • Limit your intake of fruit juice (even freshly squeezed) – try diluting it with water
  • Stay active and exercise to build your muscles, where extra sugar is stored. Having more muscle tissue helps you self-regulate your blood sugar
  • Read your food labels on food packaging - 74% of processed foods contain 60+ different words for sugar