Why Cutting Back On Sugar Is A Gift To Our Children

The problem is not that we enjoy an occasional sweet treat during the holiday season, but that many people daily consume too much sugar for their body’s good.

The FDA estimates an average American eats about 30 teaspoons of sugar per day. That’s triple the recommended amount, and it adds up to 35 five-pound bags of sugar per year.

Too Much Sugar and Kids

Not only can too much sugar lead to insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, it negatively impacts our digestion of dietary fat.

“Our findings provide new evidence that consuming high amounts of sugar can alter your fat metabolism in ways that could increase your risk cardiovascular disease,” says researcher Bruce Griffin, Ph.D., professor of nutritional metabolism, University of Surrey.

A study done by Dr. Griffin and colleagues showed that eating 650 calories of sugar per day for 12 weeks significantly increases fat levels in the blood and liver. This raises the risk for heart problems, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)—and it’s not only adults who are affected.

There is evidence that NAFLD is occurring in up to ten percent of our children, aged 2 to 19 years—owed to eating a high sugar diet from infancy. Unfortunately, symptoms of NAFLD may not be evident until substantial damage has occurred. Hypertension, and early onset cardiovascular disease is also being found in too many children and adolescents.

The Problem With Corn Syrup

The effects of sugar over-consumption are exacerbated by the presence of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in processed foods and packaged baked goods. Although HFCS is similar in chemical composition to table sugar, our body does not process it the same way.

Your body processes high fructose corn syrup differently than it does ordinary sugar. The burden falls on your liver, which is not capable of keeping up with how quickly corn syrup breaks down. As a result, blood sugar spikes quicker. It's stored as fat, so you can become obese and develop other health problems, such as diabetes, much faster. ~ Dr. Yulia Johnson, family medicine, Iowa Clinic.

HFCS is especially harmful for young people whose bodies are still developing, and not equipped to manage large loads of sugar from candy, processed foods, and sweetened beverages.

What We Can Do

Though too much sugar can compromise health at any age, it’s counterproductive to turn sugar into “the enemy,” or something to be feared. What does help is for adults to role model healthy eating by choosing wisely much of the time, and to provide a variety of healthy foods in the home. We can also:

  • Enjoy our sweet treats after eating home-cooked meals, so the protein, fiber, and healthy fats consumed can slow the absorption of sugars.
  • Limit or avoid commercially made baked goods, or buy those that use healthy fats, regular sugar, or natural sugar substitutes.
  • Create more homemade baked goods, and consider using sugar substitutes. Visit the website Cook Eat Share (link below) for hundreds of holiday recipes using stevia, the natural sweetener that does not elevate glucose levels. Or, check out the stevia recipes at SweetLeaf (link below), or do an Internet search for “stevia holiday recipes.”
  • Keep the entire family active whether it be household chores, taking walks, going on bike rides, cleaning out the garage, snowshoeing, or shooting hoops.

In 19th century America, before sugar was a dietary staple, cases of diabetes were rare. Now, it’s believed one in three individuals has either pre, or type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, while sugar consumption is not the only factor influencing our health, it is a factor we have considerable control over.

Sources: Mercola; Cook Eat Share; Sweetleaf
Photo credit: guilherme jofili

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