KIDS
November 17, 2015

Like Magic: A Quick Turn-Around For Kids’ Health

Simply reducing sugar in the diets of children who are overweight changes their metabolism for the better.

It sounds like a cheesy promotional blurb, but it turns out to be true — Eating less sugar can dramatically reverse all sorts of health problems in kids in as little as 10 days.

Parents, take note: The results of a new study show definitively how sugar messes with your child’s metabolism. All you have to do is restrict how much sugar your kids eat as carefully as you are (hopefully) restricting their screen time, and you will do wonders for their health.

Not all calories are equal. The source of calories determines where they go in the body, and sugar calories are the worst because they turn to fat in the liver.

Overweight and obese children are often diagnosed with a metabolic disorder once only seen in adults. Metabolic syndrome describes a set of conditions that occurs at the same time and increases the odds for developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. High blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and excess belly fat are markers for metabolic syndrome.

Weight Loss Was Not The Goal

Obese children aged nine to eighteen who had at least one other marker — besides overweight — for metabolic syndrome were provided with nine days of meals, including snacks and beverages. Because of their higher risk for conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, Latino and African-American children were the only ethnicities represented in the study. Their baseline metabolic parameters were taken before the new diet began.

The foods provided by the University of California San Francisco researchers were low in sugar but contained enough carbohydrate in the form of fruit, bagels, cereal, and pasta to maintain their usual intake of fat, protein, and carbohydrate as reported from their home diets. The one difference, however, was that total dietary sugar intake was limited to 10 percent, down from the average 28 percent, and fructose intake went from 12 to 4 percent.

“I have never seen results as striking or significant in our human studies…”

With the exception of leaving out sugary cereals, pastries, and sugar-sweetened yogurt, the foods were kid friendly, including turkey hot dogs, pizza, and potato chips, and they were purchased at local grocery stores.

The children were given a scale with instructions to weigh themselves every day. The goal was not weight loss, but weight maintenance. If a child reported they had lost weight, they were given more of the low-sugar foods so their weight didn’t change over the course of the study.

Striking Results In A Short Time
It only took nine days on the low-sugar diet for every parameter of the children’s metabolic health to improve. Weight did not change, but fasting blood sugar decreased by five points, insulin levels went down one-third, triglycerides decreased by 33 points, LDL (“bad” cholesterol) fell 10 points, diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 5 mm, and liver function tests improved.

“I have never seen results as striking or significant in our human studies; after only nine days of fructose restriction, the results are dramatic and consistent from subject to subject,” said Jean-Marc Schwarz, senior author of the study, in a statement. “These findings support the idea that it is essential for parents to evaluate sugar intake and to be mindful of the health effects of what their children are consuming.”

It Felt Like So Much More Food

“When we took the sugar out, the kids started responding to their satiety cues,” said Schwarz. “They told us it felt like so much more food, even though they were consuming the same number of calories as before, just with significantly less sugar. Some said we were overwhelming them with food.”

With the exception of leaving out sugary cereals, pastries, and sugar-sweetened yogurt, the foods were kid friendly, including turkey hot dogs, pizza, and potato chips, and they were purchased at local grocery stores.

The study is a solid indicator that the negative effects of sugar are not due to calories or obesity, but rather the fact that sugar is metabolically harmful, said lead author, Robert Lustig, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist. With no change in calories, weight or exercise, the children’s metabolic health improved just by substituting starch for sugar.

Not all calories are equal. The source of calories determines where they go in the body, and sugar calories are the worst because they turn to fat in the liver, increasing the risk for insulin resistance, diabetes, heart, and liver disease.

Beware Of Stealth Sugar

Food manufacturers have a sneaky way of listing sugar, and this can make it difficult for parents to find. There are at least 61 different names for sugar used in food ingredient lists on package labels. Many of these are terms far down the list of ingredients that most people don’t recognize as sugar. Unless you know the terms and add up all forms of sugar in a product, you don’t realize that sugar is often the main ingredient.

In an age where refined and processed foods dominate pantries and kitchen tables, it is imperative that parents read labels and know what they are feeding their children.

The paper is available online for free in the journal, Obesity.

COMMENTS
NOTE: We regret that we cannot answer personal medical questions.
LATEST NEWS
Infections
Bad News, Boomers
 
FOLLOW US
© 2016 interMDnet Corporation.