Sugar Consumption Among US Children and Teenagers

Sugar Consumption in the US

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“For the past 10 years, I have noticed a connection between childhood obesity, eating disorders, and the increasing complications of both in my clinical work as well as in my research. As part of my mission to shed light on these problems, particularly as they relate to US children, I find it important to provide both by readers and clients with relevant informative articles.”

Recently, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a data brief which examined the consumption of “added sugar” among American children and teenagers. On average, today’s children and teens obtain 16% of their daily calories from added sugar; the USDA recommends that no more than 5-15% of daily calories come from a combination of added sugar AND solid fats. CDC defines added sugar as “all sugars used as ingredients in processed and prepared foods such as breads, cakes, soft drinks, jams, chocolates, ice cream, and sugars eaten separately or added to foods at the table”. Examples of added sugars include white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup, fructose sweetener, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, anhydrous dextrose, crystal dextrose, and dextrin. Other key findings from the study include:

  • Non-Hispanic white children and teenagers consume more added sugar than Mexican-American children and teenagers
  • There was no difference in consumption by income among children and teenagers
  • More added sugar calories are coming from foods than beverages
  • More added sugar is consumed at home rather than away from home

Although it is unrealistic to remove all added sugar from our children’s diets, there are several dietary changes that can be made that will greatly reduce sugar consumption:

  • Cut out sugary sports drinks, soda and flavored milk.
  • Cut out artificially sweetened foods. “Diet” foods, such as diet soda, tend to increase cravings for sugary foods.
  • Replace sugary foods with foods that are low in added sugar. This can include fresh fruit, small amounts of unsweetened dried fruits and unsweetened cacao nibs.
  • Avoid foods that contain sugar, corn syrup, or high fructose corn syrup. Look for foods that contain “no added sugar”, “reduced sugar, or that are “low in sugar”, just make sure that the sugar hasn’t been replaced with an artificial sweetener.
  • Avoid processed foods that are marketing as being “low fat”. When food manufacturers remove fat from a product, they often add in more sugar to compensate for the reduction in flavor and texture.
  • Avoid products that contain “hidden” sources of sugar such as, flavored yogurt, processed cereal, granola bars, dried (sweetened) cranberries, energy bars, fruit snacks, sweetened apple sauce, ketchup, flavored instant oatmeal, fruit spread, store-bought salad dressings, store-bought bread.

Diets high in added sugar reduces the production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Reduced levels of BDNF has been linked to reduced memory function, learning disabilities, depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s Disease (HD), dementia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder (BED). Decreased levels of BDNF negatively affect leptin and insulin signals in the brain, resulting in an increased tendency to overeat.

There are several simple lifestyle changes that can be made to increase and maintain brain levels of BDNF:

  • The most effective way to increase BDNF levels in the brain is through aerobic exercise. After exercising, levels of BDNF surge. Exercise regularly and BDNF levels remain increased.
  • BDNF can also be increased through dietary changes. Acetyl-L-Carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids (such as those found in fish oil), pantethine (found in foods like dairy, eggs, sweet potatoes, peas, spinach, and mushrooms), blueberries, and the curry spice curcumin have all been shown in increase or maintain BDNF levels.
  • Anti-depressants are proven to increase BDNF levels in the brain, so if prescribed anti-depressants be sure to take them as directed.

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible.

Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. //’


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