Written by Doc Smo
We all know that children love sugar. Children burn a lot of fuel because of their near-constant need to run around. Maybe sugar provides them with the necessary fuel to keep moving? Could this insatiable craving have biologic roots? Quite possibly, this the reason. Unfortunately in a culture like ours, where sugar is easy to get and plentiful, the rate of type 1 and 2 diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic disorders among children continues to rise. When a child’s craving for sugar coincides easy availability, trouble begins. Nowhere is that more evident than on the cereal aisle of any grocery store in the US.
Recently, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington DC health information non-profit, analyzed 181 cereals marketed toward children and found them very high in sugar; on average, children’s cereals were more than 40% sweeter than adult cereals. The EWG estimates that if a child eats one serving of children’s cereal daily, they will eat 10 pounds of sugar annually. Ironically, they found that the cereal highest in sugar per serving was Kellogg’s Sugar Smacks. At least The Kellogg’s Company gave this cereal an accurate name.
As a society, we are finally beginning to realize just how destructive allowing children to consume large amounts of sugar is. Grandma instinctively new when sugar crept into the diet of Americans in the twentieth century that this would be harmful to children. Turns out she was right. Soda, candies, and sweetened cereals in large amounts lead to obesity and many other long-term health problems among children.
How do we promote healthier eating among today’s children? At a minimum, parents need to have access to non-deceptive food labels that give them accurate estimates of how much sugar their children will be getting from their children’s breakfast cereal. Telling parents that a box of cereal has 24 servings really doesn’t help them figure out how much sugar their child will be getting at breakfast, does it? Neither does not revealing how much extra added sugar has been put in a food during production. I think manufacturers of food marketed toward children should carefully study the history of tobacco marketing in the US. If they did, they would voluntarily stop the aggressive marketing of their product directly to children before society forces them to cease the practice.
As always, your comments are welcome on my blog, www.docsmo.com. Until next time.
Dr. Paul Smolen has been practicing pediatrics for 32 years as an attending physician at Carolinas Medical Center, an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine-Chapel Hill, and a private practitioner. Doc Smo is a member of the Charlotte News Alliance and can be found at www.docsmo.com.