Americans’ love affair with sugar starts at a very early age, and many toddlers are consuming added sugar at levels that exceed the maximum amount recommended for adults, a new study has found.
Consumption of added sugar starts for many before their first birthday and increases with age. Toddlers between the ages of 19 and 23 months are consuming on average more than 7 teaspoons of added sugar a day. That's more than the amount found in a Snickers bar.
Eating foods with added sugar at an early age can influence food preferences that set a pattern for less healthy food choices later in life, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said.
Consuming added sugar has been linked to a host of health problems, including skyrocketing obesity rates and increased risk for diabetes and heart disease.
"This is the first time we have looked at added sugar consumption among children less than 2 years old," said lead study author Kirsten Herrick, a nutritional epidemiologist at the CDC. "Our results show that added sugar consumption begins early in life and exceeds current recommendations.”
The study analyzed data from more than 800 infants and toddlers between 6 and 23 months old in the 2011-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey research study.
The study found:
• 85 percent of all infants and toddlers consumed added sugar on a given day.
• Just more than 60 percent of babies ages 6 to 11 months old consume added sugar on average of just under 1 teaspoon a day.
• 98 percent of toddlers ages 12 to 18 months consumed added sugar of 5.5 teaspoons a day
• And by the ages of 19 to 23 months, 99 percent of children consume an average of more than 7 teaspoons of added sugar a day.
The government does not have guidelines for daily recommended limits for added sugar for children under the age of 2. But for children ages 2 to 19 and adult women the suggested limit is 6 teaspoons or less. For adult men, the limit is 9 teaspoons or less of added sugar per day.
"Once kids start eating table food, they're often eating the same types of foods that Mom and Dad have in their diet, and other research has demonstrated that adults exceed recommendations for added sugar too," Herrick said.