February 21st, 2013
For how long can we keep ignoring this? Yet more research indicts sugary drinks and sugary food for epidemic obesity amongst children in developed countries. Sugar and obesity in children it seems, are life-long partners.
A new 10-year study (funded by federal grants, with support from two drug companies for the genetic analysis), covering over 33,000 American children and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine provides clear and conclusive proof linking sugar and obesity in children. The research found sufficient evidence that sugary beverages and sugary foods interact at a genetic level and make the child fall in love with sugary foods and foods in general. This deadly combination leads to obesity in children.
Obesity is not the only bad news emerging from the research. The evidence also suggests that these children have a higher propensity to developing diabetes at a young age.
The high-sugar, high-fat diet consisting of sodas, pastries, fries and cookies lead to lethargy. Lethargic kids are twice as likely to make do with indoor video games as against playing outside with their friends. The added weight gain, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity further compound the problem.
Jules Hirsch of Rockefeller University in New York points out that every human has the genetic capacity to become obese. In most cases these genes are repressed. However, a sugary diet has the ability to trigger these genes and once triggered, it sets of a runaway chain reaction and children are most susceptible to it. There definitely is a strong relationship between sugar and obesity in children.
The Institute of Medicine, the American Heart Association went to the extent of saying that the time has come for strong policies aimed at limiting the availability of sugary drinks or limiting the production of sugary drinks and sugary foods aimed at children. They said that products with more than 10% sugar content should be banned. Currently popular high-sugar cereals such as Coco Pops have over 40% sugar content.
Britain too has been voicing similar sentiments with British physicians pointing out that popular breakfast cereals aimed at children were more than one-third sugar by weight. Eating so much sugar they pointed out, would have disastrous consequences. In fact, a study into child health by OECD (Organisation for the Economic Co-operation and Development) found that English children were the third fattest in Europe. Sugar and obesity in children it seems, was not limited to the U.S. alone.
Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital said “the most effective single target for an intervention aimed at reducing obesity is sugary beverages“. Sugar and obesity in children definitely go hand-in-hand.
Recognizing the link between sugar and obesity in children, New York City adopted a regulation banning the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces at restaurants and other outlets regulated by the city health department.
While welcoming this regulation, physicians and child specialists say that the ideal scenario should be a nation-wide limit on the sugar ratio in all food and beverages. This would automatically limit sugar consumption amongst adults as well as children.
After the battle against cigarette smoking, it appears the next big battle will be against sugar in beverages and foods served in America. In the meantime, everyone can start teaching their kids healthy eating at home.
- Obesity in children and young people: a crisis in public health by T. Lobstein, L. Baur and R. Uauy: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2004.00133.x/full
- Childhood Obesity, Other Cardiovascular Risk Factors, and Premature Death – by Paul W. Franks, Ph.D., Robert L. Hanson, M.D., M.P.H., William C. Knowler, M.D., Dr.P.H., Maurice L. Sievers, M.D., Peter H. Bennett, M.B., F.R.C.P., and Helen C. Looker, M.B., B.S. Pub: New England Journal Medicine 2010; 362:485-493February 11, 2010DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0904130. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa0904130#t=articleResults
- The genetics of obesity by: Hirsch J, Leibel RL. Source: Rockefeller University, New York, USA. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9522833
- Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk by V.S. Malik, Barry M. Popkin, George A. Bray, Jean-Pierre Despres and Frank B. Hu Pub: American Heart Association: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/121/11/1356.short
- Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis- The Lancet, Volume 357, Issue 9255, Pages 505-508 by David S Ludwig, Karen E Peterson, Steven L Gortmaker: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673600040411