Childrearing

Cutting Sugar Can Improve Kids’ Health in Just 10 Days

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mix of sweet cakes, donuts and candy with sugar spread and written text in unhealthy nutritionWe all know that too much sugar is not good for us, but a lot of us do not know how much sugar we are actually consuming. Added sugar–as opposed to naturally occurring sugar like the fructose in raspberries–is everywhere. Sure, we expect to see sugar on the ingredients lists of sweet things like sodas or ice cream or cookies, but sugar is a key ingredient in many products that would surprise a lot of people. Sugar is added to soups, salad dressings, stocks, sauces, spreads, and more. It is very hard to avoid without a lot of diligent home-cooking and in-store label-reading, but without that, it is really easy for a person to consume a lot of sugar without ever knowing it, and that is very bad for us. According to a new study, cutting added sugar has been shown to make a dramatic improvement in children’s health in just 10 days.

The New York Times reports that a new study published Tuesday in the journal Obesity examined the effect of sugar on children’s diets as part of an attempt to figure out if sugar itself is harmful to one’s health, or if the problem is that sugar leads to weight gain, and the weight gain causes the health problems.

For the study, researchers removed foods with added sugars from the diets of children who were already obese. Those foods were replaced with other foods that did not have added sugars, but otherwise had the same amount of carbohydrates and calories–a child might have his or her breakfast cereal replaced with a bagel, for example. The goal was to keep the caloric intake and the amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates basically the same, so that the only difference would be the removal of the added sugar from their diets.

The children also did not increase their activity levels.

Predictably, the children did not really lose much weight, but weight loss was not the goal. Even though the children’s calorie intake and weight remained the same, researchers say that in just 10 days the children saw significant improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, lower levels of fats in their blood streams, and improved functioning of the liver and pancreas.

“This paper says we can turn a child’s metabolic health around in 10 days without changing calories and without changing weight – just by taking the added sugars out of their diet,” said Dr. Robert Lustig, lead study author and a pediatric endocrinologist at the Benioff Children’s Hospital of the University of California, San Francisco. “From a clinical standpoint, from a health care standpoint, that’s very important.”

Before the study, the children were reportedly getting about 27 percent of their daily caloric intake from sugar. During the study, sugar was cut back to about 10 percent of their daily calories.

Sugar is added to a lot of food as a filler, and it is way too easy in our current grocery stores to eat a ton of sugar without even knowing it. For us and our children, it is important to maintain a healthful diet without consuming too much added sugar. Sugar can sneak up on us, so make sure to always read the labels before you buy any packaged foods or prepared meals. If you’re going to eat sugar, go ahead and eat sugar, but know that you’re doing it.

{Photo: Ocus Focus/iStockPhoto/Getty Images)