It's no surprise that both kids and adults are eating way too much sugar these days. After all, it's hard to find any foods in stores that don't contain sugar. Why is that, you wonder? To put it plainly, sugar sells and most North American companies are more interested in their cash flow than they are in the health and well-being of our society.
The reason why the majority of us are so drawn to foods that contain sugar is actually a survival tactic. You see, we're born with this desire for sweetness because in nature sweet food tends to be safe (it's one of the reasons babies love breastmilk so much – due to its high sugar content).
Juliana Cohen, assistant professor of nutrition at Merrimack College in Northern Massachusetts and the Harvard School of Public Health, explains that things grown naturally in the wild have either a sweet taste or a bitter one. The bitter ones are more likely to be toxic to humans and so naturally, we've developed a dislike for bitter foods.
TIME reports that this desire for sweetness tends to fade as we age (perhaps due to us learning that some bitter foods are not only safe but good for us). Researchers are divided on the subject of whether sugar is more dangerous for kids than adults (or vice versa), but one thing is for sure... sugar tends to do more harm than good.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that kids receive less than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily. The average child consumes more than 3 times that amount at 19 teaspoons daily. The CDC recommends that both children and adults should have added sugar in no more than 10% of their daily diets. Sadly, this isn't the case for the majority of people.
Most research shows that sugar is dangerous for both kids and adults alike because it increases the risks of developing hypertension, fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and more, regardless of age. Studies also show that a sugary diet can decrease intelligence. Even a sugary diet prenatally can have damaging effects on a baby's future.
In saying that, sugar in moderation is much less likely to have lasting damaging effects so don't worry about keeping your kids from the dessert table just yet. Withholding all sweets can actually make them crave 'the unknown' more. Finding the perfect balance of healthy and non-healthy foods is key to good lifelong nutrition.