We have addressed the many ways in which excess sugar consumption impacts health many times before on The PediaBlog. We know that eating and drinking too much sugar increases the risks in children AND adults for the complications of overweight and obesity, dyslipidemia (abnormal cholesterol), high blood pressure, and heart disease. We know of its link to type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and other metabolic conditions. And we’ve known of sugar’s penchant for causing tooth decay and health conditions related to poor dentition for a very long time.
Widely accepted dietary guidelines recommend that no more than 10% of calories consumed on a daily basis come from added sugar. Pediatrician Natalie D. Muth, M.D., informs us that the average child in America consumes considerably more than that:
The AHA [American Heart Association] advises that children and adolescents aim for less than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugars per day and no more than 8 ounces of sugary drinks per week. (It recommends no added sugars for children younger than 2 years.) Yet studies show, 17% of the average child and adolescent’s calories come from added sugars, of which nearly half are from sugary drinks.
And this added sugar adds up in terms of body weight and impaired health. A new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, in collaboration with the American Heart Association, suggests public policy recommendations to protect child and adolescent health by reducing sugary drinks:
> Local, state and national policymakers should consider raising the price of sugary drinks, such as via an excise tax, along with an accompanying educational campaign. Tax revenues should go in part toward reducing health and socioeconomic disparities.
> Federal and state governments should support efforts to decrease sugary drink marketing to children and teens.
> Healthy drinks such as water and milk should be the default beverages on children’s menus and in vending machines, and federal nutrition assistance programs should ensure access to healthy food and beverages and discourage consumption of sugary drinks.
> Children, adolescents, and their families should have ready access to credible nutrition information, including on nutrition labels, restaurant menus, and advertisements.
> Hospitals should serve as a model and establish policies to limit or discourage purchase of sugary drinks.
Tricia Korioth provides advice from the AAP to help parents curb their child’s sweet tooth:
> Aim for less than 25 grams (about 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for children 2 years of age and older. Avoid serving food and drinks with added sugar to children under 2 years of age.
> Serve water and milk instead of soda, sports drinks, sweet tea, sweetened coffee and fruit drinks. Milk contains natural sugar (lactose). It also provides calcium, protein, vitamin D and other nutrients that children need.
> Watch out for hidden sources of added sugar in processed food like ketchup, dried cranberries, salad dressing and baked beans.
> Satisfy your child’s sweet tooth with whole fruit.
> Limit 100% fruit juice. It has more sugar per serving than whole fruit. The AAP recommends no more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day for children ages 1 through 3 years; 4 to 6 ounces for children ages 4 through 6; and 8 ounces for children ages 7 through 14. Do not give fruit juice to infants under 1 year old.
Dr. Muth, who is also a public health expert and registered dietician, urges pediatricians like herself to make a difference “through involvement in local school boards and school health councils, hospital and medical group boards and committees, public comment opportunities, and outreach to elected representatives.”