Do you dread when your child gets an invitation to another child’s birthday party because you know she’ll be eating lots of candy and bouncing off the walls? Is sugar the real culprit here? What are the true effects of sugar on your child?
Believe it or not, there is no scientific evidence that sugar makes kids hyperactive. In fact, a few drops of sugar water in a baby’s bottle can help soothe his crying. That’s because when sugar enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain, it temporarily increases calming neurochemicals such as serotonin.
Both pediatricians and nutritionists confirm that sugar in moderate amounts can be healthy in a child’s diet. The problem occurs when children eat too much too often. Sugar-rich foods can provide empty calories and cause children to become full. Thus, they skip the nutritious foods they should have. Furthermore, when kids eat highly-sugared foods, it can cause them to crave more sweets.
Although there is no exact amount of sugar all children should have, these health concerns can help guide you in your allotment of sugar to your child.
Uncovering the True Effects of Sugar on Your Child
Although sugar doesn’t cause the cavities, it can increase the growth of bacteria in your child’s mouth which does. Due to this, dentists discourage putting babies to sleep with a bottle of milk (contains milk sugars) or fruit juice or allowing them to sip them throughout the day.
2. Behavior Problems
When your child consumes a large amount of sugar at a birthday party, her blood sugar rises too high. Her body then produces a surge of insulin, a hormone that removes sugar from her blood and disperses it into her body cells. This can cause her blood -sugar levels to drop suddenly making your child feel shaky and sluggish. Low blood sugar can increase cravings for more sugar, too.
You can control any post-sugar meltdown your child may have by monitoring the amount of sugar she has at any one time. Control the portion of candy or cake your child eats; add some water to dilute heavily-sugared fruit juices and punches; and, select sweets low in sugar. Include protein such as cheese, soy, meat, beans, or fiber such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with the sweet treat. By doing this, you can aid in reducing the rise and fall of your child’s blood sugar.
Eating sweets doesn’t automatically make kids overweight. However, when kids consume too much high-calorie desserts, beverages, and snacks they consume more than their normal caloric intake increasing their chances of becoming overweight.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following limits on consumption of sugared fruit juices:
No fruit juice for babies under 6-months old
No more than 6 ounces a day for babies 6-months to 1-year old
No more than 6 ounces a day for kids 1-6- years old
No more than 12 ounces a day for kids over 6-years old
A diet high in sugar can increase your child’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes or the prediabetic condition, insulin resistance syndrome. These two health conditions occur when the body becomes less sensitive to insulin which regulates blood sugar. Both can increase the likelihood of serious health issues later in life such as heart disease and even infertility.
Most kids can partake of occasional sweets without a problem. In fact, pediatric endocrinologist, David Geller, M.D. of Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, recommends, “Desserts and candy can be once-in-a-while treats. Once a week is a good goal. The body only cares what you do to it most of the time.”
In small doses, sugar can even help kids eat more nutritiously. Adding a teaspoon of sugar to a whole-grain cereal like oatmeal or wheat bran can help kids like it more without affecting their blood-sugar levels. Remember the old adage,” A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down?” As with everything, moderation is the key.