Kids and sugar — the loving relationship between the two is often unmistakable and undeniable. Nevertheless, as parents, we all know that sugary foods don’t do our kids much good.
But you will never quite understand just how much damage sugar can do to a kid’s health, until you take it away from them and compare the “with sugar” and “without sugar” health indicators — like a recent study did.
This rigorous new study published in the journal Obesity, has found that cutting back sugar for kids can dramatically improve their health in just 10 days, which truly is remarkable.
Cutting back on sugar improves children’s health: The study found that it takes just 10 days without sugar for kids’ health to dramatically improve.
The study and its results
According to news reports, a team of researchers led by Dr. Robert Lustig at the University of California, San Fransisco, took out foods with added sugar from 64 children’s diets.
These foods were then replaced with different types of carbohydrates “so that the subjects’ weight and overall calorie intake remained roughly the same.” In other words, the aim was not for the kids to lose weight, but to “isolate the impact of sugar on the body.”
So, replacing yogurt with added sugar, the kids ate bagels. Pastries were replaced with baked potato chips. And chicken teriyaki (which usually has a lot of sugar) was substituted with turkey hot dogs or burgers for lunch.
Fresh fruit mostly made up the rest of the sugar in their meals.
The children’s health showed remarkable improvements, even though they lost little or no weight. On average, they had decreased triglyceride levels by 33 points. The LDL, or “bad” cholesterol dropped five points, as did their diastolic blood pressure.
What’s more, “all of the children dramatically reduced their risk of diabetes, as their blood sugar and insulin levels normalised.”
All this in just 10 days.
What’s in sugar?
Dr. Lustig, talking to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the Chief Medical Correspondant for CNN, explains why sugar is so bad for our bodies.
Table sugar is made up equally of glucose and fructose. The former is the body’s preferred energy source and is easily metabolised, with any extra stored in our muscles or liver as glycogen.
Fructose, however, is not so good. This is metabolised only in the liver, which can handle only a certain amount of fructose at a time.
Anything extra turns to fat — in the liver — which, as you can imagine, is really bad. What’s even worse is that the excess fat enters your blood stream, increasing your chances of getting heart disease.
The CNN article explains:
“Before sugar and high fructose corn syrup (which are basically the same) became so cheap to refine and produce, we only got our fructose in small amounts, when fruit fell from the trees.
“Nowadays, however, we [in the USA] consume 130 pounds a year — or roughly 1/3 of a pound every day. Our livers, however, have not evolved to keep pace with the staggering increase. As a result, a sugary drink hits your liver like a tsunami wave, according to Lustig.
“There is something else peculiar about fructose: Unlike other sources of calories, it doesn’t suppress the hunger hormone, known as ghrelin. So, despite eating lots of it, you don’t really feel full.
“The result: you keep eating. In addition, fructose targets my favorite area of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, also known as the reward center. Turns out fructose gives the nucleus accumbens a little nudge, resulting in someone feeling rewarded, good, even euphoric, and — you guessed it — wanting to eat even more.”
Parents, now that you truly know the devastating effects sugar can have on your kid’s health — and how easy it is to reverse these effects before it’s too late — you may think twice before letting your child eat that sugary treat, right?
How often does your child eat sugary treats or foods with added sugar? Do you think you’ll be reducing the amount of sugar your child eats, now that you know its effects on his/her health? Do share your views on this article in a comment below.