In June of 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study with chilling results regarding children’s nutrition & sugar consumption. The study, presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting during Nutrition 2018 in Boston, assessed sugar consumption among children less than 2 years old: the first time that a study had analyzed “added sugar” consumption among children in such a young cohort.
While the American Heart Association already recommends that very young children, under the age of 2, always avoid food with added sugars—including baked goods, candy, sugary drinks, etc.—researchers at the CDC have found that many parents do not follow these guidelines.
Lead study author Kirsten Herrick, a nutritional epidemiologist from the CDC, and her team found that the amount of added sugar increased along with a child’s age: for the children between 6 and 11 months, 61 percent of the sugar in their diet was added sugar; yet by the time children reached between 1 and 2 years old, that amount was even higher. Almost 99 percent of the sugar consumed by those children was added: i.e., not naturally occurring in the food items, and equaled an approximate average of 5.5 teaspoons each day.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for America do not include recommendations regarding “added sugar” for any children under 2 years of age; for children between 2 and 19, the recommendation is a daily limit of 6 teaspoons. Nevertheless, a CDC report confirms that on average, adult Americans consume 19.5 teaspoons of sugar each day—far exceeding the recommended limits.
Excessive sugar consumption is unhealthy for many reasons; while many problems can manifest during childhood, including obesity, cavities asthma, other major health issues such as cardiovascular disease and cancer can occur later in life. Moreover, statistics demonstrate that added sugar is particularly damaging for children, as it sets diet preferences that can ultimately lead them to make poor nutritional choices later in life. And until recently, young children and teens were not diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, yet given the large percentage of American youth that are overweight, children as young as 10 years old are now developing diabetes.