American children consume 32 teaspoons of sugar per day. As a nation we consume 130lbs of sugar on average in one year. How is this even possible? How is it tolerated given the chronic ill health of our population? What can we do about it? What is the one thing that will help? Well, I believe that we can start to reclaim our children’s health by doing one simple thing – stop drinking it.
Childhood obesity rates have tripled from 1980 to 2010. There are over 2 million children in the US in the morbidly obese range. In NY over 40% of children are overweight or obese. This is unsustainable. Even national efforts to reduce childhood obesity have been failing. The First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign has recently admitted that obesity rates in children have only just plateaued and obesity in our youngest children is only beginning to see a slight decrease. The one thing they do not recommend as part of the Let’s Move campaign? Eliminating soda or sugary drinks. For some reason, it is not mentioned even though it is the largest source of sugar calories in our children. And since diabetes and obesity are now the number one health issues of our country, we have a $245 billion reason to tackle the problem in our youngest population.
Drinking sugar is the main problem in my view as it is metabolized in the body differently from fats, carbohydrates and proteins. It is an anti-nutrient source of calories, meaning that not only does it contain ZERO nutrients, it also depletes the body of calcium, vitamin C, potassium, thiamin and chromium.
Sugar is also toxic. Much research has been done on this but the most outspoken proponent of this idea is Dr. Robert Lustig, who’s You Tube lecture has been seen over 5.5m times. Sugar is 50% fructose which is toxic in the pharmacological quantities it is consumed. Fructose can only be processed in the liver where it is quickly turned to fat. It does not stimulate effective insulin production which can lead to insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes. It interferes with our leptin (satiety) and ghrelin (hunger) hormones which are our signals to stop consuming, allowing a vicious cycle of over consumption. There is also the added toxicity of sugar beets being a GMO product which have been engineered to resist the highly toxic herbicide Glyphosate during farming, which is passed to the end product. There is much evidence to support the notion that glyphosate in our food system is leading to many chronic diseases and also childhood developmental issues – see MIT scientist Dr. Seneff’s research here.
So what can we do? I believe we should look to the main culprits and that is soda, fruit juices and sports drinks – and stop giving it to our children. We must also remember that sugar is hidden in many other staple foods for kids such as ketchup, mayonnaise, pickles, sauces, dairy products, soups, bread and cereal bars. It is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to account for the sheer amount of sugar in our family’s diet. Therefore, I believe we should begin with the largest source – the 33% that comes from drinking it. Removing sugary drinks will go a long way to help reduce the largest source of this dangerous food additive (note, it is not food).
Let’s encourage our children to drink water (or infused water!) and eat whole fruit to add that all important fiber!