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Food for Thought

Sugar has gotten a bad wrap but it may be for good reason, especially when it relates to children. There are many reasons for parents to be concerned with their child's sugar intake. "Sugar is physically addictive. It is much like a drug and the difference between sugar addiction and narcotic addiction is largely one of degree," writes William Duffy in his book, Sugar Blues.
"Addiction?!" Yes it sounds rather harsh and though the debate is ongoing we think knowing the effects of eating excessive amounts of sugar as well as instilling a healthy eating habit from a young age is very important. Sugar affects diseases such as childhood obesity and other health complications that sometimes are not manifested until adulthood.

Research suggests that children are more sugar sensitive than adults, and the effects are more pronounced in younger children, according to Dr. Keith Conners, author of Feeding the Brain. This could be related to the fact that the brain grows rapidly in the preschool years, exaggerating the effects of sugar on behavior and learning.

Obesity and Sugar Addiction

 The more sugar you eat, the more sugar you want and unable to curb their appetite, children overdose on junk foods. In a 2006 Swedish study conducted over a period of four years, the number of overweight or obese six-to-ten-year-olds dropped from 22 to 16 percent in the 10 schools that substituted sweets with healthier lunches. A control group of schools who did not introduce healthier foods saw the number of overweight or obese children rise from 18 to 21 percent.

Hyperactivity and Sugar Addiction

"In a study, researchers fed normal preschoolers a high-sugar drink, containing the amount of sugar in the average can of soda, and compared them with children who received a non-sugar drink. The sugar group experienced decreased learning performance and more hyperactivity than the non-sugar group." (Drsears.com) According to the study children who are hyperactive are often sugar-sensitive and are most often labeled as having ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder). While studies show that activity levels go up in both hyperactive and normal children on high- sugar diets, the hyperactive children also become more aggressive. Adding protein to a high- sugar meal mellows out the behavioral and learning deterioration.

Other complications
Sugar has been known to:
-  Raise high blood pressure
-  Steal the ability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria. A large helping of pie and ice cream renders your white cells 100 percent helpless. This effect lasts from 4 to 5 hours. One 683 ml of cola - can depress the immune system by 50 percent, 30 minutes after ingestion and this will last for 5 hours!
-  Too much sugar can lead to diabetes and/or heart problems.

Quick Tips to Curb Your Child's Sugar Intake

1.    Eat whole unprocessed foods with nothing added, e.g., whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed meat, poultry, and fish.
2.    Cut back on soft drinks, introduce milk (especially low fat after age 2), and baked goods made with sugar.
3.    Replace refined sugars with brown rice syrup, or maple syrup
4.    Fruit desserts are best.
5.    Limit juice to 100% juice.
6.    If you must use canned fruit, choose no sugar added or canned in their own juices.
7.    Do NOT use sweets as a reward!

Nutrition or even granola bars are sugar-filled snacks and sugar is also used in: hamburgers - to reduce shrinkage and add juiciness, breading in deep fried foods, and on frozen fish to give it sheen, processed cereals, ketchup, canned fruit and veggies, etc.

While children do need some sugar, remember however that it isn't the quality that matters so much - it's how much to put into one's body. 

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