AHA sugar recommendations

In my most recent post I discussed the role of soda as an adverse influence on our children’s health.  So it was with interest that I have noted the fortuitously timed release of updated guidelines from the American Heart association regarding sugar consumption in children.

The AHA recommends:

  • Children > 2 should consume no more than 6 tsp (25gm) of added sugar daily
  • No more than one 8 oz sugar sweetened beverage weekly
  • Under age 2 should avoid consuming any added sugar
  • 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends added sugar maximum of 10% of dietary calories

This position comes from extensive review of literature regarding the effects of sugar intake on blood pressure, lipids, insulin release and diabetes, obesity, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  They found strong evidence supporting links between added sugar and increased energy intake, weight gain, central adiposity (“belly fat”), and dyslipidemia–all known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  Moreover, the correlation of sugar consumption and obesity was dose related across all age groups and was particularly noteworthy in infants.

For perspective, the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) has found that, on average, 2-5 year olds consume 53.3 gm of sugar daily (13 tsp), 6-12 78.7 gm (19 tsp) and > 12 years 92.9 gm (22 tsp!!).  So we have some work to do.

The AHA recommends parents watch food labels for added sugars in the form of fructose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, honey, lactose, and sucrose.  The group made no recommendations regarding any effects of no calorie artificial sweeteners due to lack of evidence and for similar reasons was unable to draw any conclusions for risk of sugars in 100% fruit juice compared to added sugar drinks.

Many nutrition scientists consider sugar consumption to be like a drug addiction.  Let’s keep that in mind.

So, bottom line: best bet to follow these guidelines is to avoid fast food and processed food–not defrosted out of the freezer or mixed from a box.  Meals from lean meats, fish, fresh vegetables, snacks from fresh fruits, nuts, whole grains.  The more you prepare your meals yourself, the less prepared the snacks, the easier to follow the above and the better and healthier your child’s diet.

Send along questions or comments, and thanks for following.


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