According to the recent recommendations by the American Heart Association (AHA) the amount of added sugar being consumed by children in the U.S. is three times more than what it should be. AHA has called for the implementation of stricter limits related to the amount of sugar kids should consume and lower risk of health problems.
The guidelines were published in the journal Circulation. The AHA recommends that babies and toddlers who are under two years old should not be given any amount of added sugar. The amount of added sugar for older children should be equal to a maximum of 100 calories per day. Following these recommendations would mean that until a child turns two years old he or she should not be given ice cream, cookies or even cake. Individuals who are aged two to 18 should only consume less than six teaspoons (a total of 25 grams) of added sugar in a day. This would require most children to only eat about one-third of their previously consumed levels of added sugar.
The AHA report cited a national survey research that showed an average of 19 teaspoons of added sugar being eaten by children and adolescents in the U.S. on a daily basis. A panel of experts wrote the current guidelines after scientific research on the effect added sugars had on the health of children was comprehensively reviewed. The study said that the risk of heart disease, elevated blood pressure and obesity in kids and young adults is linked to eating food items with high amounts of added sugars throughout childhood.
The aim of the new guidelines is to provide the public with a simpler recommendation compared to the statement released back in 2009 that put forward different limits in accordance to various age groups.
The lead author Miriam Vos, a nutrition scientist and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, said that “There has been a lack of clarity and consensus regarding how much added sugar is considered safe for children, so sugars remain a commonly added ingredient in foods and drinks, and overall consumption by children remains high. The typical American child consumes about triple the recommended amount of added sugars.”
The report states that the early years of a child are important because that’s when the taste preferences of kids are developed. Children might end up opting for healthier food items if they aren’t exposed to sweets and similar edibles at a young age. The added sugar that kids eat is either included during the food processing stage or at the table through spoonfuls of sugar or honey.
For more public awareness the amount of added sugars in packaged food items will be listed on U.S. food labels in the beginning of July 2018.
While people wait for that to happen Miriam Vos advices kids to be served food items that are high in nutrition such as vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lean meat, fish and poultry, and low-fat dairy products. She also suggests limiting edibles that have little to no nutritional value. Not more than one eight-ounce (237-mililiter) of sugar sweetened drink should be given to children in a week.
No recommendation about low or no-calorie sweeteners (that includes aspartame, saccharine and sucralose) was made by the AHA. This is due to the lack of research related to the health benefits and risks associated with such sweeteners.