A Healthier Child in Just 10 Days

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New research has found that, for children with obesity, cutting back on added sugar has more of an impact on their health than ever expected.

Added Sugar and the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Childhood obesity has been on the rise in the United States for several years now, although recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that obesity rates among children may finally be plateauing.

However, the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents is still high. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), approximately one in three children and teenagers is obese or overweight.

Added sugar has been singled out as a major cause of the childhood obesity epidemic.

What Is Added Sugar?

The term “added sugar” refers to and includes all sugars that are added to food, rather than those that occur naturally.

Naturally-occurring sugars, for instance, are those such as fructose and lactose, which are found naturally in fruit and milk, respectively. Added sugars, on the other hand, are those that are added to foods during manufacturing or processing, during preparation, or at the table before eating.

The most common names for added sugar include any ingredient ending in “-ose”--such as maltose, dextrose, sucrose, fructose, lactose—as well as high fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey, cane sugar, corn sweetener, evaporated cane juice, raw sugar, syrup, and fruit juice concentrates.

Cutting Back on Added Sugar Improves Major Health Factors

New research has found that children with obesity who have their sugar intake reduced show major improvements in their cholesterol, blood pressure and other health markers—regardless of whether or not they lose weight in the process. Remarkably, the children who were studied showed these health improvements in just 10 days, after consuming a diet in which dietary sugar was reduced from 28% to 10%.

The study authors believe that this singles out dietary sugar itself as a culprit in causing related health disorders in children, not just obesity alone.

What Foods Contain Added Sugar?

According to the American Heart Association, major sources of added sugars in our diets are soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and milk products (such as ice cream and sweetened yogurt), and cereals. Most sweetened beverages and fruit drinks contain so much added sugar, in fact, that they have been referred to as “liquid sugar” by some experts.

The cereal aisle, for example, has become notorious for the amount of added sugar that can be found in the products there. It is not uncommon to find cereals from well-known brands that contain added sugar as their single largest ingredient, making up 50 percent or more of the contents of the cereal box.

Another major source of added sugar that has recently come under fire is soft drinks. In fact, in 2015, the city of San Francisco voted unanimously to approve warning labels for all advertisements mentioning sugared beverages.

Sources:

Lustig RH, Mulligan K, Noworolski SM ,et al. Isocaloric fructose restriction and metabolic improvement in children with obesity and metabolic syndrome. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2015 Oct 26. [Epub ahead of print]

Johnson R et al. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation 2009.

Moss M. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. New York: Random House. 2013.

Caprio S. Editorial: Calories from soft drinks—do they matter? N Engl J Med 2012; 367:1462-1463.

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