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Children and adolescents continue to consume too much sugar


Sugar consumption is slowly declining, but remains significantly too high

A high sugar consumption is extremely critical from a health point of view, since the risk of a whole range of diseases increases. However, sugar is particularly popular with adolescents and according to a recent study, their consumption is still significantly too high.

Researchers from the Universities of Bonn and Paderborn have used the data from the DONALD study (Dortmund Nutritional and Anthropometric Longitudinally Designed Study) to study sugar consumption in children and adolescents and have found a very pleasing decline since 2005. However, adolescent sugar intake remains at a much too high level. Measures to reduce sugar consumption are therefore urgently needed. The researchers published their study results in the specialist journal "European Journal of Nutrition".

Children are particularly prone to sugar

According to the research team, children and adolescents "are particularly susceptible to a high sugar intake because they have a genetically determined high preference for sweet foods." As they get older, this preference slowly decreases. In their study, the researchers analyzed the sugar consumption of 1,312 children and adolescents aged between three and 18 years. It was based on the data from the DONALD study from 1985 to 2016, in which "detailed data on nutrition, growth, development, metabolism and health status were collected at regular intervals from infancy to adulthood". “Three-day weighing protocols” were also carried out and the proportion of free and total sugar consumed was recorded.

What are free sugar and total sugar?

Free sugar is sugar that is added to the food of manufacturers or in the preparation at home or that is naturally contained in juices. On the other hand, total sugar is the complete sugar content of a food including the naturally contained sugar.

Slight decrease in sugar consumption

For the evaluation of the sugar trend analyzes, a total of 10,761 three-day weighing protocols were examined for age and time trends in sugar intake, the researchers report in a press release from the University of Bonn. It has been shown that the intake of free sugar decreased slightly between 2005 and 2016. However, the mean value in these years was still over 16.3 percent of the daily energy intake and thus still above the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO; maximum 10 percent of the daily energy intake).

Real sugar intake probably much higher

"Even if the decline in sugar intake is already a positive development, the intake is still far above the recommendations," emphasizes Dr. Ute Alexy from the University of Bonn, head of the DONALD study. In addition, it is likely that far more sugar is consumed than recorded in the study, because the study participants came from families with a high socio-economic status and the sugar intake is probably higher in poorer families.

Changes in sugar intake throughout life

The influence of age on sugar consumption was also interesting. In the study, the youngest subjects (ages three to four years) showed the lowest sugar consumption, which is probably due to their parents' regulation. Then the sugar intake increases dramatically. "We suspect a shift in sugar intake from natural sources such as fruit and fruit juices with increasing age towards an increased sugar intake from sweets, drinks and sweetened milk products", explains doctoral student Ines Perrar from the University of Bonn. In the later course of life, the proportion of total sugar in the energy supply will decrease again.

Measures to reduce sugar consumption required

According to the researchers, it is "certainly not enough to continue to explain the negative effects of high sugar intake", but now "a coordinated combination of nutritional measures to reduce the amount of sugar added to our food is needed." Because the high sugar intake increases the risk for various diseases such as dental caries, obesity and obesity as well as cardiovascular diseases. (fp)

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