Parents: Be Wary

Sugar in GramsTwo articles recently drifted into our email accounts that highlight what we believe is a profoundly important subject for parents.

The first is an extremely helpful general article from Canadian Dr. Paul Roumeliotis on overall dental care for infants and children.

He makes a number of helpful suggestions for parents including:
• How to manage teething pain
• How to clean newly developed teeth
• When to use toothpaste and how much
• When to use dental floss
• And, teaching your children proper dental care and oral hygiene.

Finally and significantly he makes the point that while progress has been made in preventing cavities, the current rate of cavities in children is still high – and so, too, are the consequences.

“Aside from causing the child local pain and an infection that can sometimes spread to the eye and brain, we now know that dental cavities and poor oral hygiene are also linked to higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart conditions. So proper oral hygiene is not just for the sake of the teeth, mouth, and gums; it contributes to overall health and wellness,” he writes.

Not surprisingly, the primary cause of cavities in young children is sugar. Sugar in milk, apple juice, etc. Dr. Roumeliotis also cautions parents avoid the particularly harmful practice of putting a child to bed with a bottle where the sugar coats the teeth for hours.

On the heels of this helpful and practical article is a new study from Australia where scientists at University of New South Wales found that sugar can be as damaging to the brain as extreme stress or abuse.

Here is what the study authors found:

“The changes we observed to the region of the brain that controls emotional behaviour and cognitive function were more extensive than those caused by extreme early life stress.
It is known that adverse experiences early in life, such as extreme stress or abuse, increase the risk of poor mental health and psychiatric disorders later in life.”

In other words, excessive sugar consumption by infant and children can result in actual, adverse changes in brain function.

Unwary parents can give their children excessive sugar unwittingly. Some trusted brands add enormous amounts of sugar to their products. Juice is presented as a healthful alternative to soda. And, so on.

As a parent, your best bet is to carefully read the packaging labels which indicate the amount of the sugar in the product. However, that information is presented in grams which means you have to understand the relationship of grams to teaspoons which is the way most of us understand sugar. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar. Remember this. It’s vitally important.

Heath and medical organizations recognize the importance of limiting sugar in diet and you can easily look those up by googling them. In one example, last year the World Health Organization recommended adults and children limit their total sugar intake to approximately 12 teaspoons of sugar daily. While making that recommendation, the organization said that limiting sugar intake to 6 teaspoons per day would provide additional health benefits.

Now, here are some examples of sugar in popular fruit juices for toddlers and young children:

• 12 ounces of orange juice – 8 teaspoons of sugar
• 12 ounces of apple juice – 10 teaspoons of sugar
• 12 ounces of grape juice – 15 teaspoons of sugar

This stuff is scary. BE WARY.

Here is a wonderful youtube video that graphically demonstrates the point.