Guidelines not sugar-coated: Limits for children announced

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The association wanted to see children under the age of 2 years avoid foods or beverages with added sugars, including sugar-sweetened drinks. ©iStock
The association wanted to see children under the age of 2 years avoid foods or beverages with added sugars, including sugar-sweetened drinks. ©iStock
Children between the ages of two and 18 should consume fewer than six teaspoons of added sugars daily, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends.

In a statement​ featured in the journal Circulation​, the AHA said that children and teens should limit sugar intake to no more than eight ounces weekly.

The association also wants to see children under the age of two avoid foods or beverages with added sugars, including sugar-sweetened drinks, altogether.

Sugar consumption is as much of an issue in the US as it is in Europe. With the UK government recently publishing its childhood obesity strategy​.

The recommendations by the AHA also call for the restriction of sugar as part of a movement to combat expanding waistlines and declining health.

Unhealthy eating practices during childhood have been a focus as unhealthy food consumed as a reward or to regulate emotions could be setting up a series of unhealthy eating habits that could impact on health in later life​.

WHO indecision

sweet candy children iStock.com dblight
The AHA could not be establish whether the high sugar content in 100% fruit juices should cause the same concerns as beverages with added sugars. ©iStock/dblight

Such is the debate over recommended sugar intake, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has continually revised its guidelines from those set out in 2003, which recommended sugar intake be limited to less than 10%​ of total daily energy intake.

Its latest recommendation came in 2015, where it said a sugar intake of less than 5%​ of total energy intake per day would reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases such as weight gain and dental issues.

Sweet challenge 

The team carried out a review of scientific literature and presented the challenges highlighted by these nutrition studies that were limited to original research, human studies and reviews up to November 2015.

Dietary data from the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) 2009 to 2012 was also assessed.

“Studies of nutrients such as added sugars are challenging, but over time the number of studies in children has increased,”​ said Dr Miriam Vos, lead author and nutrition scientist and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Georgia in the US.

“We believe the scientific evidence for our recommendations is strong and having a specific amount to target will significantly help parents and public health advocates provide the best nutrition possible for our children."

The findings did not make any reference to the consumption of artificial sweeteners due to the lack of research that looked into these sugar substitutes in the diets of children.

In addition, it could not be established whether the high sugar content in 100% fruit juices should cause the same concerns as beverages with added sugars.

Industry stance

sugar reduction, reformulation, sweeteners, Copyright bogdandreava
Sugars can add colour and sweetness, enhance other flavours, as well as provide bulk and texture. ©iStock/bogdandreava

"The release of the AHA's Scientific Statement on added sugars and kids is baffling,"​ The Sugar Association stated.

"In a year where the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (ages 2 years and up) and the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) final labeling rule (ages 4 years and up) issued a 10% target for added sugars, the AHA is releasing their own vastly different recommendations."

"The AHA is recommending 6 teaspoons of added sugars for an active 16-18-year-old boy - this is just 3% of his calories. Where is the science to support this?"

"We all want kids to be healthy. But the added sugars dialogue has lost its scientific integrity. The AHA's recommendations contradict the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which historically has been the expert voice on children's diets."

Meanwhile, Europe’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) also thought that sugar’s benefits had been overlooked.

In providing advice for food and drink producers on reducing sugars they stated that sugars can add colour and sweetness, enhance other flavours, provide bulk and texture, and improve shelf-life by reducing available water and inhibiting growth of bacteria.

In some products, sugars are used to improve the palatability of fibre, wholemeal or bran, for instance.

“Sugar reduction is a major focus as consumers look increasingly closely at the sugars in their diets,”​ said FDF director general Ian Wright.  

“This presents both challenges and opportunities. Recipe changes need to pass the consumer acceptance test to be successful, lasting and beneficial to consumer health.”

Source: Circulation

Published online ahead of print, doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000439

“Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children.”

Authors: Miriam B. Vos et al.

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2 comments

Sugar in Infant Formula

Posted by Debbie,

I agree with the recommendations. However I have a problem that baby formulas have to 1 teaspoon per 4 oz if the stats are right with wikipedia . WIC won't let you choose your formula to exclude sugar. 53 percent of infants in United States are on WIC . It's a crying shame (no pun intended ) Wake up and force companies to take the sugar out for our childrens sakes. Our future depends on it. Sugar is addictive and does play a important part future health. Its a step in the right direction but unless it goes further will do nothing. The saying , " Actions speak louder than words " Give people the proper choices that all can afford. Kids won't just eat 20 peaches because of the sugar content but they might eat 20 cookies.

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"The problem with focusing on one nutrient as the cause of obesity is..."

Posted by Brandon,

"... That it isn't confusing enough to keep people buying our poison."

Although they're partially right in that there are other culprits. We should also be going after meat, dairy, and eggs. Thanks for pointing that out mister sugar industry man.

However, sugars found in whole foods such as eating whole strawberries, banana, etc. is shown to have none of the negative health effects of eating refined sugar. I've heard of studies where participants ate up to 25 servings of whole fruit (not juice) per day with no ill effects.

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