Kids eat and drink way too much added sugar, the CDC says

Children and teens are consuming too much added sugar in their diets, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly one in every six calories they eat and drink comes from some type of added sugar.

This finding isn’t exactly surprising, but it’s worth looking at some of the statistics to appreciate the magnitude of the problem. The data here is on U.S. kids between the ages of 2 and 19, culled from the government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey:

* Boys consumed an average 361 calories’ worth of added sugar each day. For girls, the daily average was 282.

* Though the total amount of added sugar in the diet was higher for boys than for girls, the proportion of total calories that came from added sugar was similar – 16.3% for boys and 15.5% for girls. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that no more than 15% of daily calories come from “discretionary” foods such as added sugar and solid fats.


* Consumption of added sugar rose steadily as kids got older. For instance, preschool-age boys got an average of 218 calories from added sugar, while those in the 6-to-11 age bracket got 345 and those in junior and senior high got 442. The trend was similar for girls.

* 59% of calories from added sugar came from food, 41% from beverages.

* Most added sugars are consumed at home. This is more true for foods than for drinks.

* Household income had no bearing on the proportion of calories consumed in the form of added sugar.

Added sugar is just what it sounds like – a caloric sweetener that doesn’t exist naturally in foods. A partial list of the types included in the report includes white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, molasses and high fructose corn syrup. The CDC said it counted “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.”

Why are they bad? In addition to contributing to weight gain, they boost cholesterol and increase the risk of various heart problems in children. Check out this report on a study in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. to learn more on the link between sugar and heart health.

For more on sugar, check out this story from the Health section archives. The Mayo Clinic offers some tips for reducing the amount of added sugar in your diet (among them: go easy on condiments like ketchup and salad dressing).

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