How is sugar damaging your child’s health?

Sugar is the hidden ingredient in much of today’s processed foods. It’s even in tomato ketchup, and yoghurts specifically produced for children! Unless we take these added sugars into consideration, then we could be giving our children way more sugar than they should consume. Over the recent years, sugar has got a bad wrap. We’ve seen the sugar tax come in on drinks, and we are waiting for the imminent chocolate tax, but just how bad is sugar and what are the long-term implications of over consumption of sugar?

What is Sugar?

First of all let’s understand what sugar is. Sugar is a natural ingredient and has been part of our diet for thousands of years. Sugars are carbohydrates and they are needed for the body’s energy. The most common sugar in the body is glucose which your brain, major organs and muscles need to function properly. [1] Glucose is the sugar that is converted by the body into energy, and it is glucose that is found in most fruits, vegetables, potatoes, pasta, rice, bread and more. [2] Sucrose (made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose), is the scientific name for table sugar. It’s a naturally occurring carbohydrate found in many fruits, vegetables and grains, but it’s also added to many processed foods, such as sweets, ice cream, breakfast cereals, canned foods, soda and other sweetened beverages [3]. There are other types of sugars such as lactose (found in milk) and maltose found in malted drinks and beer. So, as you can see sugar is available everywhere and it is easy to consume.

How much sugar is too much?

According to the NHS guidelines they describe sugars as Free Sugars. [4] These are:

  • Any sugars added to food or drinks. These include sugars in biscuits, chocolate, flavoured yoghurts, breakfast cereals and fizzy drinks. These sugars may be added at home, or by a chef or other food manufacturer.

  • Sugars in honey, syrups (such as maple, agave and golden), nectars (such as blossom), and unsweetened fruit juices, vegetable juices and smoothies. The sugars in these foods occur naturally but still count as free sugars.

Sugar found naturally in milk, fruit and vegetables does not count as free sugars.

  • The recommended daily amounts for children according to the NHS are: [5]
  • Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day (6 sugar cubes).

  • Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g of free sugars a day (5 sugar cubes).

  • There’s no guideline limit for children under the age of 4, but it’s recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it

  • At the bottom of the blog, I have detailed more information about the foods you can find sugars in. It might surprise you.
  • What are the health risks of giving your child too much sugar?

Lowers immunity Eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria.[6] This means that your child will be at a higher risk of catching an infection, which could result in taking antibiotics. We are now learning that taking antibiotics alters the balance of the gut microbiome. Unless you are giving your child probiotics, and a balanced diet of whole foods including rich in raw fruit and vegetables, then it’s unlikely that your child will quickly rebuild a diverse microbiome. This means that your child’s digestive system begins to slow down, as some of the bacteria’s and yeasts feed off the sugar reducing the number of beneficial bacteria’s. As a result of an imbalanced gut microbiome, your child will then find it harder to fight off infections continuing this cycle of:- illness – antibiotics – short wellness – followed by illness again.

Encourages yeasts to grow – Candida overgrowth is extremely common (even in children). Candida is a yeast that feeds on sugars, and anything that converts to sugar, it will grow out of control in conditions such as too many antibiotics and a high sugar diet. Physical symptoms could be oral thrush, skin problems, sugar cravings, vaginal thrush and more. [7]

Strips the enamel on the teeth – According to Caroline Smith, Dental Hygiene Therapist and Myofunctional Therapist and rebreathing practitioner, she says, “When we eat sugar, certain bacteria feed off the sugar and produce acid. This acid then starts to dissolve the outermost layer of enamel away. Once the enamel has been penetrated, the bacteria can get in the middle of the tooth it spreads fast and can cause permanent damage and pain.

It’s worth remembering that each tooth is a live organ with its own blood and nerve supply. If we have a high sugar diet and poor gut health, this affects the quality of the blood which in turn effects how the tooth repairs and defends itself from the inside out too.”

Depleted in important vitamins such as Vitamin D – Vitamin D is believed to help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin – the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels – and thus reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes. [8] Our main source of Vitamin D is from the sunlight, but living in Northern Europe we aren’t exposed to as much sunlight, so often we become deficient. You can find Vitamin D naturally in foods such as oily fish, milk, cereals and beef liver. [9] If the diet of your child excludes the above and includes too much sugar, then it’s likely your child will have a Vitamin D deficiency, therefore reducing the efforts of regulating blood sugar levels and leaving your child exposed to Type 2 diabetes.

Obesity – Did you know that too many carbohydrates (sugars and starches) will be stored as fat if they cannot be converted to energy? [10] That’s why it’s really important to know what carbohydrates are, the foods that contain carbohydrates, and what foods you could give your child instead. Having a balanced diet of as much whole foods as you can is really important. By all means have some sugar in the diet, but limit the added sugars, and chose raw fruits and vegetables to feed any sugar craving monkeys. Obesity is a global epidemic and there are some theories out there claiming that bacteria in the gut could be to blame. Whatever is the cause, obesity is a major problem and is the leading cause of Type 2 diabetes.

Check out our blog: How to improve your child’s gut health!

If you are looking to change your child’s diet, then a good way to monitor their food is to keep a food diary. You can even list the amount of sugar they are having per day by looking at the labels or using the NHS online sugar calculator https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/food-facts/sugar/sugar-calculator

How much sugar is in our children’s foods?

Here are a few examples of where you will find sugars,

1 teaspoon of sugar is approx 4.2g, therefore19g of sugar is equal to an extra 4.5 teaspoons of sugar.

Peppa Pig Yoghurts

One pot of yoghurt has 5.4g of sugar (a little over a teaspoon) [5]

 

 

 

Frosties Cereal

One serving of cereal has 15g of sugar (equal to 3 1/2 teaspoons) [6] (And if you add sugar on top, then it really is sugar overload)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ketchup

Even in a tablespoon of ketchup there’s nearly a teaspoon of sugar (3.7g)

 

 

Yoghurt raisins

In only 30g you will find approx 19g of sugar mostly from the sugary coating.

 

 

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