Why Cutting Back on Sugar Can Transform Your Child’s Health

One common narrative around nutrition you may be familiar with is the “calories are all that matters” rhetoric. While this stance makes it much easier for food companies to justify their harmful ingredients and increase their profits, it doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. 

Mainstream nutrition advice has gone through many phases of demonizing fats, then carbohydrates, and then animal foods, but sugar has managed to largely escape this public dietary shaming. There are many reasons to explain this which I won’t get into, but it’s important to know that sugar (in its many forms) is cheap, makes food highly palatable and it has properties that can even make it addictive. I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks as to why it seems to be at least partially protected from bad publicity.

Instead of talking about the politics of sugar, we’re going to stick to the science. Sugar has been known by nutrition researchers for quite some time to have negative impacts on dental health, metabolic health, cognitive health and gut health. Let’s take a closer look.

How Sugar Affects Metabolic Health

One of the major ways sugar can be damaging to you or your child’s health is because of how it affects the cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US for both men and women, so taking care of cardiovascular health early and consistently with a good diet is extremely important. 

High sugar diets are linked to heart disease and strokes, and we can reason why this happens by looking at how the body processes sugar. When we eat sugar, beta cells in the pancreas are responsible for making and releasing insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that signals for glucose (from sugar) to go into the cells to be further broken down for energy or stored for later use. 

Problems arise however when someone continually eats many foods high in sugar which means the beta cells need to work extremely hard to keep up. They can eventually start to decline in function, so the level of glucose starts to spike higher from foods, and this damages the cardiovascular system. 

How Sugar Affects Gut Health

Another reason eating too much sugar is a concern is because of how it affects the gut microbiome. A diet high in sugar can feed harmful types of bacteria residing in the gut. Some of these bacteria can start to erode the protective mucosal layer of gut lining, and therefore increase its permeability. 

Having an eroded gut lining can cause a whole domino effect of other problems. Kids and adults alike can experience poor digestion, bloating, skin inflammation, mood swings, and decreased immune function. 

Going Low Sugar is a Long Game

The scientific consensus is clear that sugar can do a lot of harm. This isn’t to say that you should never consume sugar, but rather that it should be consumed in mindful moderation. It’s easy to fall into the habit of giving your kid sweets whenever they’re pleading for a treat, but their long term health is far more important than any momentary pleasure could ever be.

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