without doubt, every time we have guess in our house, invited to a friend house, or just out and about with friends, I get ask this question: “why you don’t let your daughter to have sugary treats?”. Unfortunately this does not always come in the form of question, sometimes it is more in the form of criticism; as I am not letting my daughter to live a life and having fun!!!!! few times people even told me “don’t be to tough on her, let her live”. So below are my reasons why I am not letting my daughter to have excessive sugar, and why I think as a society we need to readjust our way of thinking about our kids diet.
As always I like to start with what science has showed us, before I move on to my point of view.
Negative effects of refined sugars:
Lets define sugar and what kinds of sugar we need to avoid before moving too deep into the negative effects of refined sugar.
So what is Sugar? According to Wikipedia, “Sugar is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food. There are various types of sugar derived from different sources. Simple sugars are called monosaccharides and include glucose (also known as dextrose), fructose, and galactose. The “table sugar” or “granulated sugar” most customarily used as food is sucrose, a disaccharide of glucose and fructose. Sugar is used in prepared foods (e.g., cookies and cakes) and is added to some foods and beverages (e.g., coffee and tea). In the body, sucrose is hydrolysed into the simple sugars fructose and glucose. Other disaccharides include maltose from malted grain, and lactose from milk. Longer chains of sugars are called oligosaccharides or polysaccharides. Some other chemical substances, such as glycerol and sugar alcohols may also have a sweet taste, but are not classified as sugars. Diet food substitutes for sugar include aspartame and sucralose, a chlorinated derivative of sucrose.” (1)
As you can see above a lot of very healthy and nutritious foods have sugar in them, like Milk, fruits, even vegetables to some extend. there is no doubt that sugar, in all forms, is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. But the effects it has on the body and overall health depends on the type of sugar.
So how do you know which sugar you should avoid? we basically have two kinds of sugar: natural and refined.
Natural sugars are those found naturally in fruits in form of fructose and unsweetened whole dairy products in form of lactose.
Refined sugars are usually derived from sugar cane or sugar beets and is found as sucrose, combination of glucose and fructose. Also there are some chemically produced refined sugars that food manufacturers use, like high fructose corn syrup, which gets added to lots of processed foods like tomato sauce, salad dressings, crackers, low-fat foods, etc.
The difference comes in the way the body metabolizes these two different kind of sugar. with natural sugars come lots of other macro and micro nutrients. for examples fruits are loaded with water and fiber which expand in your stomach and make you feel full and keep you full. And dairy products have protein which also keep you full longer. However when you eat refined sugars the body breaks them down very quickly because they usually contain no or very little fiber or protein. this is why, you can eat a whole bucket of ice-cream and still be hungry.
Now that we are clear on types of sugar and which ones we are trying to avoid lets get back to the proven negative effects of refined sugar on the body, specially the little ones.
There is no doubt that consumption of too much sugar, can cause obesity. there is also debate that consumption of too much sugar can cause hyperactivity in children. But there are other harmful effects in consuming too much sugar, that unfortunately are very hard to reverse and can effect a child for the rest of his or her life.
Consumption of refined sugars can effect children’s ability to learn and impair memory function:
It has been shown that sugar consumption in children can impair memory. Researchers from the University of Southern California fed adult and adolescent rats beverages with sugar levels comparable to that found in ordinary sodas. After a month, the adults showed normal brain function. However, the adolescent rats showed reduced memory and learning capacity. In addition to declined memory levels, these rats also had inflamed hippocampi. This part of the brain is crucial for forming memories and organizing and storing memories. If sugar can effect a rat this way, just imagine how it can effect your child.
Also when children’s bodies are flooded with cortisol, which is a stress hormone that Hypothalamus releases when children consume too much sugar and attempt challenging tasks like learning, they struggle to pay attention and sit quiet. when children don’t pay attention to the information they are being thought, they find it difficult to learn and retain the information.
Despite the fact that many children who consume excessive amounts of sugar are overweight, they may still be malnourished. Foods high in sugars provide empty calories. Empty calories are calories that provide little to no nutritional value. Children who fill up on empty calories are likely to miss essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, that would be provided by a nutrient-dense meal. This may lead to malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies.
Fatty liver disease happens in children who are overweight, obese, or gain too much weight. Fatty liver disease does NOT occur because of too much fat intake, but because of excessive sugar intake. The average child consumes three to four times the amount of sugar their body requires.