Children aged 2 to 18 years should eat or drink less than six teaspoons of added sugars daily, which is equivalent to about 100 calories or 25 g of sugar, according to a new standard from the American Heart Association (AHA) that was published in the journal Circulation.
The statement was written by a panel of experts who did a comprehensive review of scientific research on the effect of added sugars on children's health, which presented challenges common to this kind of nutrition research. The panel also recommended that added sugars should not be included at all in the diet of children younger than the age of 2 years. They said the calorie needs of children in this age group are lower than older children and adults, so there is little room for food and beverages containing added sugars that don’t provide them with good nutrition.
The announcement comes a few months after FDA unveiled new requirements for the Nutrition Facts label of packaged foods, including the reporting of a product’s added sugar content. This new attention to added sugar intake on packaging—as well as consumer demand for sweeteners that are natural, sustainable and healthful—provides brands the opportunity to increase use of alternative sweeteners when developing or reformulating products.
“Studies of nutrients such as added sugars are challenging, but over time the number of studies in children has increased," said Miriam Vos, lead author, nutrition scientist, and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. “We believe the scientific evidence for our recommendations is strong and having a specific amount to target will significantly help parents and public health advocates provide the best nutrition possible for our children."
Eating foods high in added sugars throughout childhood is linked to the development of risk factors for heart disease, such as an increased risk of obesity and elevated blood pressure in children and young adults. The statement noted one of the most common sources of added sugars is sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, fruit-flavored and sports drinks, sweetened teas and energy drinks.
“Children should not drink more than one 8-ounce sugar-sweetened drink a week yet they are currently drinking their age in sugary drink servings each and every week," Vos said.
Because of the lack of research for or against the routine use of non-nutritive sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharine and sucralose in the diets of children, the authors felt they could not make a recommendation for or against these no-calorie sweeteners. In addition, it is not known whether the high sugar content in 100-percent fruit juices should cause the same concerns as beverages with added sugars.
Looking for more insight into the functional role of sweeteners in confectionery formulations? Join us for the Selecting Appropriate Sweeteners for Chocolates, Gummies and Chewables panel discussion on Friday, Oct. 7, at SupplySide West 2016.