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No more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day for children: new US guidelines

New recommendations from the American Heart Association state that children should consume less than six teaspoons of added sugars per day in order to maintain good health. 

Children aged 2 to 18 should eat or drink less than six teaspoons of added sugars daily, according to the scientific statement recommending a specific limit on added sugars for children, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Six teaspoons of added sugars is equivalent to about 100 calories or 25 grams.

“Our target recommendation is the same for all children between the ages of 2 and 18 to keep it simple for parents and public health advocates,” said Miriam Vos, MD, MsPH, lead author, nutrition scientist and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

“For most children, eating no more than six teaspoons of added sugars per day is a healthy and achievable target,” said Vos.

Studies have shown that the likelihood of children developing health problems such as obesity and heart disease rises with an increase in the amount of added sugars consumed.

Furthermore, overweight children who continue to take in more added sugars are more likely to be insulin resistant, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, according to the statement.

“There has been a lack of clarity and consensus regarding how much added sugar is considered safe for children, so sugars remain a commonly added ingredient in foods and drinks, and overall consumption by children remains high. The typical American child consumes about triple the recommended amount of added sugars,” said Vos.

“Studies of nutrients such as added sugars are challenging, but over time the number of studies in children has increased,” said Vos. “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 expert panel also recommended that children under the age of 2 years should not consume foods or beverages with added sugars, including sugar-sweetened drinks, arguing that the calorie needs of children in this age group are lower than older children and adults, so there is little room for food and beverages containing added sugars that don’t provide them with good nutrition.

Furthermore, taste preferences begin early in life, so limiting added sugars may help children develop a life-long preference for healthier foods.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the WHO and the FDA recommend that added sugars should make up less than 10 percent of calories, aligning with these guidelines.

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