A new study reveals that not all calories are created equally - be sure to watch out for this ingredient when planning your child's meals.
Are American kids eating too much sugar? A continuously growing body of research almost overwhelmingly says yes. According to a report from the Washington Post, a recent study from researchers at the University of California-San Francisco and Touro University adds to the available knowledge by showing that kids on low-sugar diets were significantly less likely to become overweight.
The study examined 44 volunteers between the ages of 9 and 18, and tracked how their bodies changed after being put on a low sugar diet. All of the participants were obese at the beginning of the study, and had at least one other issue with their metabolic health, be it hypertension or fatty liver biomarkers. 27 of the volunteers identified as Latino and 16 identified as African American.
The participants were screened for blood pressure, cholesterol, oral glucose tolerance, and bone density. The children or their parents filled out a questionnaire and completed an interview about dietary habits to determine their average caloric intake.
The doctors then redesigned the participants’ diets by recreating the amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates present. The doctors omitted 10 to 28 percent of the sugar from each kid’s diet and replaced it with starch.
The children began to transform almost instantly. According to the study’s author, Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, “All of the surrogate measures of metabolic health got better, just by substituting starch for sugar in their processed food – all without changing calories or weight or exercise.”
After just 10 days of a low-sugar diet, the doctors recorded a drop in diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL, or the type of cholesterol typically considered harmful. They also noted improvements to glucose tolerance and the amount of excess insulin in the blood.
The children in the study were eating roughly the same amount of calories as they were before they began to lose weight. So what is it about sugar that allowed these children to lose an average of two pounds in such a short time period?
To better understand the results, the researchers reviewed previous studies examining the effects of sugar on weight loss and overall dietary health. Prior studies have connected sugar consumption to metabolic syndrome, but so far nobody has been able to prove a causal link between the two.
The study was published on Monday in the journal Obesity, and while it does not provide the elusive causal link between metabolic health issues and sugar consumption, it certainly suggests that cutting out the sugar can make a big difference.
The children’s blood pressure dropped an average of 5 mmHg, which was not accompanied by a corresponding increase in heart rate. The doctors also observed an increase in uric acid, though they remain unsure as to why this occurred.
While the causal link between sugar and metabolic syndrome remains elusive, the recent study suggests that eliminating sugar from a kid’s diet can at least help relieve some of the symptoms.
The researchers will need to scale up their studies to say for sure what happens when sugar is eliminated from a child’s diet. A press release describing the study’s findings can be found here.