It’s scary, really, when you consider that one cup of the popular breakfast cereal Honey Smacks contains even more sugar than a Twinkie. This comes from a new report released by non-profit research and advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) after their experts examined more than 80 popular cereal brands marketed directly to children.
The report, titled Sugar in Children’s Cereals: Popular Brands Pack More Sugar than Snack Cakes and Cookies, also tells us many children’s cereals fail to meet the government’s proposed guidelines for sugar content, which recommend no more than 26 percent added sugar by weight. According to the study, over half of the cereals reviewed surpassed that number—packing more sugar than popular junk food desserts like snack cakes and cookies.
So what’s the problem with all that sugar? Let’s start with obesity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years,i putting American children at an increased risk for developing obesity-related illness and disease. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In a recent statement, the American Heart Association revealed kids as young 1-3 years already consume around 12 teaspoons (roughly 48 grams) of sugar each day, and by the time they’re teens that number will nearly triple.ii According to the EWG report, kids who consume high-sugar breakfasts are more likely to have problems at school—including difficulty concentrating and paying attention in class. As a result, they are more likely to make mistakes on their work. They also have less energy and are hungrier throughout the day.
Because the manufacturers that develop and sell these high-sugar cereals and other processed food products continue to lobby for more lenient nutritional guidelines, parents need to be vigilant about proper diet and making sure children are getting the vital nutrients essential for their well-being. EWG’s report provides a list of the “10 Worst Children’s Cereals,” along with tips for choosing smarter breakfast options, to help parents make sure kids get a healthier start each day.
Recently the FDA announced plans to update the current Nutrition Facts label, and one of the things health experts hope to see is more clarification about the amount of total and added sugars in our food. Now, the World Health Organization says our daily sugar intake should amount to only 5 percent of our total calories—half of what they recommended previously. It seems the sweet stuff’s bad reputation is finally catching up to it.
According to WHO officials, the exorbitant amount of sugar consumed in the United States is contributing to poor nutrition, weight gain, obesity (and obesity-related health problems), and the development of dental diseases—treatment for which soaks up a large portion of the national health budget.
“I applaud the WHO for tightening up their recommendations on added sugar intake,” says ReNew Life founder and natural digestive care expert Brenda Watson, C.N.C. “A reduction of sugar intake is a step in the right direction. But honestly, I believe added sugar has no place in a healthy diet. Overconsumption of sugary foods, along with foods high in refined and starchy carbohydrates, is a major—if not the major—contributor to chronic disease. And if you have ever experienced sugar cravings (who hasn’t?), you know that there is a fine line between ‘just one bite’ and ‘just ate the whole cake/pint of ice cream/box of cookies.’”
The new draft guideline, currently online and available for public comment until the end of the month, recommends a reduction to below 5% of our total energy intake per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index (BMI)—equal to about 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of sugar daily. However, that means our average sugar intake would have to drop by two-thirds, according to a recent FOX News article.
The WHO’s last attempt to revise its sugar guidelines came in 2002, when the proposal to cut sugar consumption to less than 10% of our daily calories evoked a less-than-sweet reaction from the U.S. sugar industry. However, the more we learn about sugar and its harmful effects on the body, the more health experts are taking steps to increase awareness and encourage healthier eating habits.