Most toddlers in the U.S. eat more sugar every day than is recommended for adults, according to a study.
A representative study of toddlers showed that 99% of children aged between 19 to 23 months eat over seven teaspoons of added sugar each day on average. That is the equivalent of a Snickers. Children were also found to consume added sugar before the age of one.
The study comes at a time when one in six children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese. And as children grow up, their preference for unhealthy foods is likely influenced by a sugar-filled diet in early life, according to researchers.
As well as causing obesity, eating excess sugar can lead to dental problems and is linked to asthma and risk factors of cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.
Kirsten Herrick, the lead author of the study and a nutritional epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement that this is the first time the body has looked at how much added sugar children below the age of two eat. She presented the findings on Sunday 10 June at Nutrition 2018, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition held in Boston.
The data revealed that 85% of the children involved in the study ate added sugar on any given day, and the amount they consumed crept up as they aged. Between the ages of six to 11 months, just over 60% of babies ate added sugar on a given day, at around under one teaspoon on average. By the age of 12 to 18-months, this figure rose to 98%—at around 5.5 teaspoons. By 19 to 23 months, 99% of children ate an average of over seven teaspoons of added sugar on a given day.
Herrick said the best way to cut sugar from the diets of children and adults is to “choose foods that you know don’t have them, like fresh fruits and vegetables.”