Overweight children can improve overall health quickly by cutting back on intake of sugar, according to a New York Times article published October 27, 2015.
A study published in the journal Obesity found that children who reduce their intake of sugar experience remarkable improvements in health in only a short period of time. Cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other common measures of good health improve significantly when sugar is curbed, often in only ten days.
The study experimented with the diets of a group of 43 children, ages 9 to 18, removing foods with added sugar and replacing them with foods containing complex carbohydrates. The overall caloric consumption was kept at a constant level and while the children didn’t lose any weight as a result, the improvements in other health measurements were positive. This casts doubt on the commonly held view that calories, alone, are the cause of health issues with children. It shows that calories from sugar are worse and the study’s lead author, Dr. Robert Lustig, says a sugar- reduced diet can have significant health impact on young people.
“This paper says we can turn a child’s metabolic health around in 10 days without changing calories and without changing weight – just by taking the added sugars out of their diet,” said Lustig. “From a clinical standpoint, from a health care standpoint, that’s very important.”
The addition of sugar to foods is a common practice in the food industry. Manufacturers know that sugar has an appealing flavor, especially to kids. And marketing studies show that foods with added sugar are more likely to be enjoyed by children, therefore leading to improved sales.
Many health experts agree that limiting sugar is a positive step toward better health and there has even been proposed legislation to provide better food labeling, indicating the amount of added sugars in everyday foods along with a daily percent value. As expected, the food industry has lobbied hard against these changes, arguing that no scientific evidence exists to prove that sugar calories are any worse than any other calorie.
Whether or not the FDA can convince Congress to amend the rules and require manufacturers to disclose added sugars remains to be seen. In the meantime, parents of young children should do what they can to keep sugar intake in check. Even a small reduction in sugar intake can lead to better overall health in ways that go far beyond the waistline.