It seems like there are more and more articles coming up in the news about sugar consumption, and the risks that excess sugar poses on our health. While this realization is nothing short of common sense, people still have the notion that sugar consumption, is no big deal.
Just like cigarettes were once considered "safe", and even recommended by physicians, sugar is following suit. With study after study showing the damage that sugar causes on our liver, as well as the rise in obesity and metabolic syndrome, health professionals still say that consuming sugar in moderate quantities is safe. Make no mistake, sugar is just as dangerous as cigarettes are.
In August, the American Heart Association issued stricter guidelines for sugar intake, recommending that children consume less than 24 grams of added sugar a day, which equates to 6 teaspoons. In my opinion, 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day is still a heck of a lot of sugar. Remember that added sugar doesn't include fruit. Although fruit can be healthy if you eat the whole fruit, many people are feeding their kids, as well as themselves, fruit smoothies or fruit juice made at home (which still has the same damaging affects on the liver that refined sugar has).
Cigarettes were once seen as sexy and cool, until people started dying from lung cancer...not so sexy. Sugar is the same. Pepsi cola ads display young, thin, happy, sexy people having the time of their life while drinking their carbonated beverage. Pepsi cola does not show an ad of an obese 6 year old child that's sitting in the doctors office being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes...not sexy and not cool. Yet this is exactly what's happening. More and more children are being diagnosed with metabolic disease. Do you think the sugar industry cares? Nope! Bring on the sugary breakfast cereal commercials!
Sugar is just as damaging as cigarettes are, and we're only coming to this basic understating now. The evidence is right in front of our eyes and so obvious, yet we still turn a blind eye, just like we tried to do with cigarettes. Do we have to treat sugar the same way? Do we have to wait until more and more people get sick and die in order for us to finally do something?
In a news article posted by CNN, Lisa Drayer talks about the damage that excess sugar has on a child's diet, specifically fructose, and although she states the undeniable evidence of the modern western diet and it's harmful affects on children, she still suggests that parents let their children have sweets everyday (according to health care professionals).
She states that health professionals want parents to teach their children how to "self-regulate" sugar intake, and not deprive them which could cause them to overindulge when the possibility arises. One expert, Isoldi says that good choices of sweets could include animals crackers, vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. However if the kids are set on having chocolate chip cookies, this shouldn't create a food fight.
Isoldi says that parents should let their children decide how much to eat because allowing only 1 or 2 cookies will create a restrictive environment. If you give the child 2 cookies and they want more, you're response should be "ok". The idea behind this method is that children learn their own satiety cues which could help them with eating issues later in life.
Well this all sounds so romantic, let me just say, what a crock.
First, children are children and do not rationalize like adults do. Expecting a 4 year old to self-regulate their sugar intake is absolutely ridiculous. There's no way that a child would say, "actually I'd like to have only one sip of soda thank you". No, one sip of soda and if it were up to that kid, they'd drink until they were sick. Parents should parent their children by making decisions for them that a child wouldn't know anything about. To rationalize that sugar is harmful for your health to a three year old and then give them a cookie and expect them to "make the right choice" is a fairy tale and negligent to say the least. One taste of sugar and all rational thinking goes out the window.
Secondly, the chemical responses that happens in the body when an adult consumes something sugary is the same responses that happen when a child consumes it. Dopamine is released, insulin spikes and fructose metabolizes in the liver causing fat deposits if excess is consumed. Try explaining to 4 year old little Johnny to self-regulate when his hormones and his biology are telling him to eat more. Not quite so easy. The more sugar little Johnny eats, the more he wants. There is no such thing as self-regulation when consuming refined sugars, especially when it comes to children.
It's interesting that animal crackers, ice cream and frozen yogurt were the suggestions for sweet treats to feed your child when processed foods are notorious for not only added preservatives, artificial colours, flavours, refined carbohydrates and sugar, but are also notorious for being addictive. How can a 3 year old self-regulate when you give them something that causes them to crave more? Why not suggest homemade sweet treats that are made with whole fruits or at least more natural sugars like honey or pure maple syrup? Why do we assume that children wouldn't like healthier treat alternatives?
Again, as a parent, you get to decide how you raise your children. You can teach them to like whole foods by feeding them whole foods right from the beginning. If you fed your child homemade desserts made with unrefined sugar, would they ever know that they are so called "being deprived"? Even though they grow up in a world that heavily markets suboptimal foods to children, you still have the power to make those decisions for your child, at least until they start to go to school and see other kids eating different foods.
The last thing we need is more self-entitled children demanding they want more cookies because their parents are afraid of creating a restrictive environment, I mean common, give me a break. Educate your children of the consequences of eating processed foods when they're old enough to understand, and when they're at an age where they've grown up without refined sugars or processed foods, hopefully their tastes will continue to be for whole foods. It's your job as a parent to protect your little ones from harmful substances, especially since the rise of childhood obesity and metabolic disease continues to climb.
Just like cigarettes are sold but come with a warning, processed foods need to display warnings on their packaging as well. The next time little Johnny picks up a box of Lucky Charms, he'll read "warning, this food contains high amounts of sugar which is linked to heart disease, diabetes and obesity". I think in the not too distant future, we're going to look back in utter disbelief that we let something like sugar and processed foods cause so much disease. Just like we see smoking for what it really is now, we'll see sugar for what it really is. Deadly.
Do you think children should self-regulate their sugar intake?
Do you think sugar is just as dangerous as cigarettes are? Let me know your thoughts!