Although it may sound like a bad infomercial, a study financed by the National Institutes of Health has shown that cutting added sugar in children’s diets can improve their overall health incredibly quickly.
The study observed 43 obese children and found that eliminating or reducing added sugar, even while keeping the same number of calories and savory junk foods in their diets, led to improving many obesity-related health issues in just ten days. The children who were selected were not only obese, but also suffered from a chronic metabolic disorder, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Despite no change in caloric intake and other fatty foods, the children lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol, and several even lost some weight. During the experiment, the children replaced sugary cereals and pastries with bagels, and sugary dishes like chicken teriyaki with hamburgers or turkey hot dogs.
They were still allowed as much fatty food as they desired during the experiment. Several of the children also had improved function in their liver and kidneys and several reported feeling “too full” during the experiment. Yet, 42 out of 43 of the participants said they found the new diet to be appetizing.
Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at Benioff’s Children’s Hospital at the University of California San Francisco said of the study:
“This paper says we can turn a child’s metabolic health around in 10 days without changing calories and without changing weight – just by taking the added sugars out of their diet. From a clinical standpoint, from a health care standpoint, that’s very important.”
While this study indicates a major step forward in learning about nutrition, it should also be noted that many scientists and nutritionists remain skeptical.
Barry Popkin, nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, advocates for a tax on sugary drinks, but remains a little wary of the results of the new study.
“While this work is suggestive of a dramatic beneficial health effect, there are too many careful, well-controlled studies on this topic that do not find such unique, dramatic results.”
Scientists and nutritionists hope to expand on this study to see if the findings can be replicated.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.