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Added sugars are sugars that are put into foods during preparation or processing, or added at the table. On food labels, these sugars are sometimes listed with names ending in "ose," such as maltose or sucrose. Other types of added sugars include high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, syrup, honey, and fruit juice concentrate.
Researchers analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on added sugar consumption among more than 1,000 babies and toddlers. The data came from surveys conducted between 2011 and 2016 in which kids' parents answered questions about their children's eating habits over a 24-hour period.
According to the research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
- Added sugar consumption among toddlers ages 12 to 23 months was almost universal, topping 98 percent.
- Toddlers consumed almost 6 teaspoons of added sugar in a day (that's the limit recommended for older children and adult women).
- Black and Hispanic toddlers typically consumed more sugar than white and Asian toddlers.
- Babies ate much less sugar, just under a teaspoon on average.
There are several reasons why added sugar is bad for babies and young children, two nutrition experts told Reuters:
- It could lead to bad health. Added sugar is associated with cavities, asthma, obesity, elevated blood pressure, and altered cholesterol and triglyceride levels among older children, said lead study author Kirsten Herrick.
- Sugar has no nutritional value. "Added sugars are just empty calories," said Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
- Kids develop a preference for sweetness. Children who regularly consume food and drinks with added sugar are likely to continue to prefer sweetened foods as they get older, Schwartz said. That could put them at risk for obesity.
The experts had two key recommendations for parents:
- Read food labels. Look at the nutrition information and ingredients on the labels of food and drink products. Don't assume products are healthy just because the packaging shows pictures of fruits or vegetables, Schwartz said.
- Offer foods and drinks without sugar. Instead of sugary drinks and snacks, give your child fresh fruits, vegetables, and water, Herrick said.
Read more about nutrition guidelines for young children.
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