I remember when I was young, collecting my pennies and dimes and heading down to the corner store to buy some five cent candies. My sister would come home from school and pour herself a glass of icing sugar and eat it with a spoon.
Was my mom ever surprised when shortly after we would be running around like crazy kids? Not really.
Though these are simple examples of most children’s love of sugar, this idea of the effects of sugar on children has become a very serious health concern throughout Canada and the US. And the truth is, though we can control the number of soda pops we drink, there is lots of sugar in foods we wouldn’t expect.
Dr. Brenda Watson C.N.C is a Naturopathic doctor, who has dedicated her career to helping people achieve vibrant, lasting health through improved digestive function.
Dr. Watson took some time to share some knowledge and advice about how we may not realize how much sugar we or our kids are ingesting, and how this sugar is affecting their bodies and their behavior.
The main catalyst says Dr. Watson is silent inflammation. She says, “The silent inflammation means you have inflammation but you may not know you have it. You can’t feel it or see it. There are markers to the silent inflammation. They are obesity, fat around the abdomen, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and of course high blood sugar.”
How many teaspoons of sugar do you eat a day?
Well, starting now, according to Dr. Watson, the average adult should be eating about eight to ten teaspoons of sugar daily, because we do need sugar in our diets. “There are two concepts, they are added sugar in like a soda or cookies, that is a given. The average Canadian on a decent diet is getting about 37 teaspoons a day. Children are up to about 22 teaspoons a day of added sugar in their diet,” explains Dr. Watson.
“What I am doing is showing people how to take the added sugar and the simple sugars that we get from carbs [bread and pastas] and converting those from grams of carbs into teaspoons of sugar.” She says continuing, “When I’m saying the average person needs eight to ten teaspoons of sugar a day, that is in all of the food they are eating. We have about seven liters of blood in our body. In order to maintain blood stability we need one teaspoon of sugar at any given time to be normal.”
Dr Watson has created a formula to help people assess how much sugar is in packaged foods. “If it says there are 43 carbs per serving that is a typical pasta box. I minus the fiber from it, which is usually about three grams and then if I divide that by five it shows you that in two ounces of normal pasta you are getting about eight teaspoons of sugar. Part of the problem is our food industry.”
She asks some important questions, “Who, number one east two ounces of pasta, very little amount and it’s so glaringly confusing to the average person because we do not look at carb grams. Carbs are glucose and sugar from soda and fruit is from fructose which is much more dangerous, but it all counts.”
Do people who are more active, can their systems handle more sugar?
Dr. Watson says, no. “Carbs are converting to sugar. Active people may be able to burn it off, but it’s all about managing your blood sugar levels, which doesn’t really matter. If you levels are swinging up and down all day, it really doesn’t matter how much exercise you are doing because your glycemic index is swooping up and down and that’s what begins to cause hypo-glocemia and diabetes.”
So back to kids, how much sugar should they be getting daily?
Dr. Watson says, “If you look at our children, if we could just take the added sugar out of their diet that would be so helpful keeping their insulin levels down. They say the average preschooler needs about four teaspoons of added sugar a day and four to eight year olds need about three teaspoons per day. Now you take that into effect of ok are they sitting there eating tons of packaged food, whole wheat bread that adds to the glycemic index. Two slices of whole wheat bread has two table spoons of sugar.”
Two table spoons of sugar in two pieces of whole wheat bread? Holy.
Dr. Watson continues, “Where I think we are missing the boat in obesity in children and even with adults is it’s easy to say I’m not going to give them fruit juice or not going to give them a cola, but how many carbs are they eating a day that we’re not accounting? That is where we’ve gotten really clueless.”
She continues, explaining some of the health side-effects of children having too much sugar in their diets and how parents can monitor, “If you look at our children, we’ve got obesity, kids now with high cholesterol, a marker of the silent inflammation, high blood pressure. The thing we don’t do that should be necessary is to test periodically. Not just once a year. Test their fasting glucose levels, when they get up in the morning before they’ve had any food. Parents can buy monitors at the drug store to monitor their blood sugar. If it stays over 85 at a fasting rate, then they are automatically setup for heart disease and obesity.”
Dr. Watson explains we get a lot of sugar that we are not looking at, the hidden sugars in the packaged foods.
Other than testing blood sugar levels, what would be some indicators that a child is consuming too much sugar?
Dr. Watson explains, “I think behavior is a big one; if they’re having behavioral problems with their children. There was a test done where they let a child eat as much sugar as she wanted, she ate 16 teaspoons of sugar. Within five minutes the child was in a temper tantrum. I think many times, that children behavior gets looked at as a ‘temper tantrum’ but it is a sugar reaction.”
Another indicator of too much sugar is if the child has started exhibiting a craving for the carbs, or don’t want to eat good protein with their meals.
Dr. Watson says, “A lot of times children develop food sensitivities and a lot of that leads again back to the grains and the wheat sensitivities. Protein needs to be given with every snack and every meal. A lot of people rationalize that honey is better and it’s not, it’s sugar. There are about 40 different names for sugar. That is a big factor in looking at parents becoming aware of what really is sugar.”
Another sign is trouble sleeping. Dr. Watson says, “The graph on childhood diabetes goes straight up now. I think that it may be something to ween them down. Always when you give something, make sure it has plenty of fiber. Another good tip is to wait 20 minutes before giving your child a second helping. Let it settle. There is a hormone in the intestinal track that has to be triggered before we feel satisfied. Try to buy their media time, TV, computer time, with activity. You get 30 minutes of TV with 30 minutes outside doing something.”
Dr. Watson also cautions parents to stay away from cereal? She says, “Try some oatmeal with berries, that type of thing would be better. Try getting kids to eat protein in the morning to get their blood sugar level stable.”