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How Sweet It Is: Are We Turning Our Kids Into Sugar -holics?

Restricting sugar on the breakfast table may be the best thing parents can do for their children.

Health officials are trying to open parents’ eyes on the sheer volume of instant breakfast treats and sweet cereals. Touted as the most important meal of the day, it is also here that children are fed the highest amount of sugar in the form of cereals, pop tarts, pancakes and syrup, granola bars, and even flavored yogurt.

With children consuming more than 50% of what should be their daily sugar intake in just one meal, nutritionists say they’re becoming “sugarholics” – the equivalent of alcoholic adults – since it can be seriously damaging their livers and brains, The Guardian revealed.

Children and sugar - Diabetes risk - Food and nutritionFructose, one of the two molecules which make up dietary sugar, is metabolized in the human liver in the exact same way as alcohol. High doses of fructose is toxic to the liver, making children develop fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes even while they’re young. Additionally, frequent intake of sugary drinks such as iced tea, sodas, and juice boxes are causing behavioral problems in children. They exhibit being “hyper” and uninhibited, which are traits usually associated with being under the influence of alcohol.

Dangerous Treats

In 2011, the US Environmental Working Group identified 17 breakfast cereals with exceedingly high sugar contents. Four years after, the EWG reported that none of these brands made an effort to lower the percentages in their products. Even something as seemingly innocent as raisin bran is filled with 19 grams of sugar per serving. While the raisins are already sweet, they are still dipped in a sugary solution to make them even sweeter. Flavored yogurts also contain 19 grams compared to plain yogurt which only has 7 grams which all come from lactose.

Unfortunately, the problem doesn’t end with breakfast. Infant food and snacks and even pasta sauces have been found to contain more sugar than commercial pizza or fast food fare.

The Sun reported a study made by DW Fitness Clubs on regular supermarket-bought pasta sauces revealed as much as 7.3 grams of sugar 100 grams of sauce.  Take note that this just added sugar and doesn’t factor in the natural quantities from other ingredients. The American Heart Association has set the ideal sugar consumption to no more than 100 calories per day for women and 150 calories per day for men. This runs to about 6 and 9 teaspoons per day, respectively. In reality, the average American consumes up to 17 teaspoons, and that adds to a lot of problems over time.

Cutting back not only contributes to weight loss but also cardiovascular health. This would mean withholding some of your kids’ favorite treats in favor of natural and healthier alternatives.

“national and international guidelines about sugar consumption are, in fact, based on flawed science”

One Woman’s Crusade

Former dentist and University of California- San Francisco researcher Cristin Kearns has revealed a conspiracy against making the harmful effects known to the public. Unlike salt, sodium, and tobacco, which have all been tagged as “harmful” and come with a warning to take with caution, sugar has been left alone for decades.

The Pacific Standard ran Kearns’ story and proposed that the sugar industry has been hiding the real effects on people’s health.

“If sugar industry efforts skewed research about sugar’s harmful health effects, then national and international guidelines about sugar consumption are, in fact, based on flawed science. Until recently, federal organizations such as the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration had never officially recommended caps on the amount of sugar a person should eat, even though caps for nutrients such as fat and sodium have existed for more than 20 years,” the report said.

The sugar dilemma is prevalent all over the world, not just in America. It’s affecting not only adults, but kids as well, turning them into “junkies” with adverse effects on their bodies and brains. While it is impossible to ask for global action, parents can make the bold initiative and limit the amount they serve at the breakfast table and make healthier choices when shopping or dining out. The battle can be fought one day at a time.

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