Most children are constantly surrounded by sugary treats (in large part due to their own persistence — and their grandparents), so it might be unrealistic to think that a child could grow up in a sugar-free environment. But there’s a huge difference between kids eating an occasional sweet treat and eating cookies after every single meal, and it turns out that this difference could have a significant impact on their health.
A study published in the February 2016 issue of Obesity found that removing foods with added sugar from children’s diets resulted in dramatic improvements to their metabolic health in 10 days. That’s it. The children who reduced their sugar intake saw improvements to their health in less than two weeks.
The 43 obese children (aged between nine and 18) followed a diet similar in macro percentages to what they normally are, and the only aspect of their diet that was altered was the amount of added dietary sugar consumed. This was reduced from 28 percent of their diet to 10 percent.
At the end of the nine days, the researchers found that while the weight of the participants remained roughly the same, there was a noticeable difference in their metabolic health. On average, blood pressure fell by five points, LDL cholesterol levels dropped by 10 points, and triglycerides dropped by 33 points. “Sugar can trigger increased triglycerides because excess calories are converted to fat, and triglycerides are basically fat that moves through your blood stream,” explains Denis Faye, Beachbody’s Senior Director of Nutrition Content. Additionally, the participants’ fasting blood sugar and insulin levels also improved.
“Increasingly obese youths are developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes today,” explains Dr. Sonia Caprio, a pediatric endocrinologist and professor of pediatrics at Yale Medical School. “A diet rich in sugar is closely associated with Fatty Liver Disease, the prelude to type 2 diabetes, so decreasing the intake and consumptions of sugar could be a good way to prevent that.”
How Much Sugar Should Children Eat?
This study was released just a few months before the government’s new dietary guidelines, which recommends that sugar should be no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that children consume less than six teaspoons of added sugars per day. This equals out to about 100 calories or 25 grams. Added sugars include any sugar or concentrated sugar source, like honey, agave, and fruit juice, added by the manufacturer, cook, consumer. The AHA also adds that children and teens should limit their intake of sugary drinks to no more than eight ounces per week, and children under the age of two shouldn’t consume any food or drinks with added sugar. To start removing sugary foods from your diet, check out what it’s like to cut out sugar for three weeks and tips on how you can do it successfully.