One of the most important things you can do in raising healthy kids is to educate yourself on the facts and research surrounding kids’ diets and health. A recent study published in Obesity had some pretty startling results. As reported in the Washington Post, researchers found that decreasing the amount of sugar in kids’ diets has a beneficial effect in as few as 10 days.
The study focused specifically on adolescents (aged 9 to 18) who showed symptoms of “metabolic syndrome.” Some were obese, while others had high blood pressure or some degree of glucose intolerance. When researchers changed their diet to reduce their sugar intake from 28% of daily calories to 10% of daily calories, the study participants all showed marked improvements in all measures of metabolic health. In addition, even though the kids were all eating the same number of calories (calories from sugar were replaced with calories from other starches), they lost an average of 2 pounds over the course of the study. Some kids lost weight so fast, in fact, that the researchers increased the number of calories in their diets.
Why It Matters
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average child in the U.S. gets 200+ calories in the form of sugar daily – about 11% of their daily intake. That number goes up considerably in teens. One study found that sugary drinks are the single largest contributor to their daily caloric intake – sugary drinks, in the form of soda, energy drinks and sweetened juice drinks, even beat out pizza!
At the same time, research shows that people who drink at least one sugary drink a day are at greater risk of developing diabetes, becoming obese, and suffering from a variety of coronary problems than those who don’t drink sugar-sweetened drinks at all.
As with any study, there are caveats and push-back from certain parties. This particular study was small – only 43 participants – and a national sugar retailers organization pointed out that the results could not be separated from possible results of the weight loss (but they didn’t offer any reasoning as to why the kids, eating the same number of calories WITHOUT sugar, would have lost weight). In other words, the results don’t prove that sugar causes those problems – but it’s a pretty good indicator that cutting out the sugary drinks definitely helps them.