We are now seeing chronic diseases such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and type 2 diabetes in children, an age group that had never previously manifested such pathologies.
Other adult warning signs such as dyslipidemia (high amounts of fat in the blood) and high blood pressure, two risk factors for cardiovascular disease, are now common in childhood.
These conditions are prevalent in obese and normal weight children.
One simple strategy that could help protect your kids (our future) against a lifetime of health problems is to control their sugar intake.
This strategy alone can provide some very powerful and fast health benefits. A recent study found that removing added sugar from the diets of obese children resulted in significantly improved blood profiles in just 9 days.
In this study, the children consumed a diet for nine days to deliver comparable percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrate, however the only difference was dietary sugar was reduced from 28% to 10%, and substituted with more nutritious forms of carbohydrate.
The results where astounding.
These changes took place without any weight loss and the children did not need to decrease the amount of calories (or carbohydrates) that they were eating.
The only change that was made to the children’s diets was the removal of food items that contained added sugars.
The health improvements achieved are the equivalent of adding up to 30 years to their lifespan. Not to mention avoiding over $400,000 of health care for each child over their lifespan.
What does added sugar mean?
Added sugars are not a naturally occurring component of the food. They are typically added during processing. Reading the ingredient list is the only way to identify which foods contain added sugars. Some forms of added sugars are: sugar, cane sugar, raw sugar, sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, maltodextrin, honey, or fruit juice concentrate.
Always check the ingredients list to see if sugar has been added under an alternative name. As a healthy guide, if a food contains less than 5g of sugar per 100g, you’ll be choosing a product that’s low in sugar.
It is not uncommon to find a lot of foods marketed as healthy can contain upwards of 30 grams of sugar per serve, such fruit drinks, breakfast cereals, cereal bars, yogurts, packaged smoothies, muffins, crackers, breads and even spaghetti sauce can all contain a lot of added sugar.
Conversely, choices like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meats and poultry should not contain added sugar. When in doubt, if it comes in a packet, read the label. If sugar is listed in the first 5-6 ingredients, probably go for a better option.
No need to be a sugar Nazi
Before you become the sugar Nazi in your home, understand that all sugar does not need to be avoided. Naturally occurring sugars in fresh fruits and veg are not linked to these health problems. It's also important to note the improvements observed where obtained letting kids be kids - fun food options like turkey hot dogs, home made pizza, baked potato chips, bean burritos and popcorn were incorporated.
That's the important lesson.
Simply becoming more aware of the choices you make available to your family can have an incredible impact on their health right now that carries forward for the rest of their lives. So no need to overhaul the family's diet or become a killjoy - it's the small changes that matter.
Want a healthier family in nine days? Be clever and switch the choices that contain added sugar.
Isocaloric fructose restriction and metabolic improvement in children with obesity and metabolic syndrome. Lustig RH, Mulligan K, Noworolski SM, Tai VW, Wen MJ, Erkin-Cakmak A, Gugliucci A, Schwarz JM. Obesity. 2016 Feb;24(2):453-60.