Children and healthy nutrition: The “sugar trick” starts backwards

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Healthy child nutrition: What parents should never do
Some parents encourage their offspring to eat a healthier diet by sprinkling a little sugar on foods such as fresh strawberries or natural yoghurt. However, researchers now report that this trick is backfired. Because children who consume sweetened fruit or dairy products have a higher risk of being overweight in the long term.

More and more children are far too fat
According to international research, the number of obese children has risen dramatically. More and more overweight children live in Germany, too. Obesity can lead to a variety of illnesses. In order to counter the problem, the main risk factors for obesity must be addressed: Lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet. But how can we positively influence children’s eating habits? In any case not with the so-called “sugar trick”, as has now been shown in a study.

A child’s body needs a lot of energy
Evolution actually meant quite well with us. Especially in childhood, when our body needs a lot of energy due to growth, we have a pronounced appetite or even a ravenous appetite for sweets.

But what was an advantage in a primeval world of deficiency can cause problems in an affluent society, writes the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology – BIPS in a communication.

The proportion of overweight and obese children has multiplied worldwide in recent decades.

From a scientific point of view, this is due not only to a lack of physical activity but also to increased consumption of sweets with a high sugar content and “soft drinks”.

Communicating a healthy diet
Many parents rightly try to teach their offspring a healthy, low-sugar diet.

But not all children are happy when there is “only” healthy fruit and vegetables.

Some parents therefore sprinkle sugar on the fresh fruits and on the nature yogurt or Kakao into the milk, in order to give a little sweet starting assistance to the small ones on the way into a healthy nourishing way.

But what is well meant can have a negative effect in the long run, as a recent BIPS study now shows.

Quality of nutrition declined
For this purpose, the international research team from Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Spain, Estonia and Germany evaluated the data of the more than 16,000 children who took part in the European IDEFICS study on childhood obesity.

A large proportion of these children were re-examined after two years in the BIPS-led study in order to identify changes over time.

According to the scientists, the analysis showed a clear picture.

The children, who consumed more sugared fruit, smoothies and dairy products at the time of the first study, showed significantly more signs of overweight and obesity than the comparison group two years later.

In addition, the quality of their diet had also decreased more frequently and to a greater extent than that of the control group.

Sweetening of fruits and dairy products largely avoided
“The results prove that sugaring healthy foods – even if well-intentioned – has the opposite effect,” said Dr. Antje Hebestreit, head of the Lifestyle-related Diseases Section at BIPS and co-author of the study.

“Our assumption is that the influence of taste, which we experience especially at a young age, plays an important role here,” said the expert.

“So anyone who as a child consumes sweets frequently – even if only small amounts of added sugar – will also later eat foods containing sugar more frequently and thus increase their risk of developing obesity and metabolic disorders such as diabetes,” explained Dr. Hebestreit.

“Our recommendation is therefore to do without sugar, honey and instant powder for sweetening fruit and dairy products. It makes more sense to deliberately offer children a wide variety of tastes in order to prevent the great boredom at the dining table and a monotonous and thus unhealthy choice of food in later years.”

And: “If you focus on diversity instead of sugar, you will be much more likely to provide your children with the broad range of nutrients they need for their growth and well-being”.

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