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Are We Too Sweet? Our Kids' Addiction to Sugar

You'd be hard-pressed to find a child who doesn't love sugary foods, and chances are the processed or packaged food your child eats has some amount of added sugar. New research suggests that this trend has spiraled out of control. A childhood sweet tooth isn't as harmless as it might seem. Our country's addiction to sugar is adding up to serious health consequences for families, and experts are saying it should be reined in.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently released new guidelines limiting the amount of added sugar considered acceptable for a healthy diet. The guidelines, published in the August 2009 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, also connect increased sugar consumption with a variety of health problems, including obesity and high blood pressure.

The new guidelines state most women should consume no more than 100 calories, and men no more than 150 calories, of added sugar. These numbers average out to about 6 to 9 teaspoons, or 25 to 37.5 grams, of sugar a day. Preschoolers with a daily caloric intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories shouldn't consume any more than 170 calories, or about 4 teaspoons, of added sugar a day. Children ages 4-8 with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 calories should consume no more than 130 calories, or about 3 teaspoons a day. (In order to accommodate all the nutritional requirements for this age group, there are fewer calories available for discretionary allowances like sugar.)

As your child grows into his pre-teen and teen years, and his caloric range increases to 1,800 to 2,000 a day, the maximum amount of added sugar included in his daily diet should be 5 to 8 teaspoons.

The Scary Truth
Are you ready for the scary truth? A study conducted by the AHA found children as young as 1-3 years already bypass the daily recommendations, and typically consume around 12 teaspoons of sugar a day. By the time a child is 4-8 years old, his sugar consumption skyrockets to an average of 21 teaspoons a day. The same study found 14-18 year old children intake the most sugar on a daily basis, averaging about 34.3 teaspoons. In general, a statement from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted from 2001-2004 found the average American consumes about 355 calories of added sugar a day, or the equivalent of 22.2 teaspoons. That is about triple the recommended amount!



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