The excessive consumption of sugar has led to various health issues among children, who are particularly vulnerable due to their developing bodies and susceptibility to sugar overload.
In recent decades, the United States has been confronted with a significant sugar epidemic that has had detrimental effects, especially on children's health. The excessive consumption of sugar has led to various health issues among children, who are particularly vulnerable due to their developing bodies and susceptibility to sugar overload. However, by advocating for healthy eating habits and reducing the intake of added sugars, both children and adults can be shielded from this emerging sugar epidemic, which poses a serious threat to human well-being.
The Risk to Children's Health Posed by Sugar
The consumption of unhealthy colored sugary drinks by mothers, who then feed them to their children, has a direct impact on their development, as fructose syrup negatively affects a child's developing brain. While humans have always had a natural inclination toward sweets, children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of added sugar.
Doctors recommend obtaining natural sugars from fruits and caution against excessive consumption of artificial sugars. Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine warns that exceeding the daily sugar limit increases the risk of death from heart disease by 30% (Heid M, 2019).
A study conducted by the Nation Confectioners Association in 2020 revealed that candy and chocolate sales experienced a significant increase of 21% (Sweitzer-Lamme, 2020). Additionally, a New York-based market research consultancy found that candy and snack brands accounted for one-third of the 50 most popular brands among children. This raises the question of whether the rise in candy and snack consumption is a result of the pandemic or a pre-existing trend in the food industry.
Over the past decade, obesity rates have been on the rise in the USA. It is estimated that over 14 million children and adolescents are affected by this modern-era disease. The young population is experiencing mild to severe symptoms of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, as well as respiratory and joint problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, obesity prevalence was 12.7% among 2- to 5-year-olds, 20.7% among 6- to 11-year-olds, and 22.2% among 12- to 19-year-olds (CDC, 2022). The study also revealed a correlation between higher education levels among household heads and lower obesity rates (CDC, 2022).
Pediatric experts advise parents that candies saturated with sugar exceed the recommended daily limit of 25 grams. Research has shown that excessive sugar consumption leads to learning difficulties and health problems. Surprisingly, most of the sugar was found in colored drinks marketed as child-friendly. Child health experts recommend that parents encourage their children to self-regulate and find balance while emphasizing the importance of reading food labels, as "there are 200 names for sugar - and they are hidden in 70% of processed foods" (Lindberg E, 2020).
Protecting Children in the USA from the Sugar Epidemic
Children have the right to a healthy diet and should be protected from harmful substances. Unfortunately, the media often promotes unhealthy products to the public. Children and families living in poverty are particularly affected by this unfair treatment, as they lack the means to maintain a healthy diet.
Many families in the USA cannot afford to choose adequate nutrition, which not only directly violates children's right to non-discrimination but also neglects their basic needs. Considering that "77% of processed food sales globally are controlled by just 100 large firms," food companies should assume greater responsibility for advertising highly processed foods (UNICEF, n.d.).
In comparison to Asia and Africa, where malnutrition is more prevalent, the USA has greater resources and capacity to improve the well-being of children in
the country. One of the crucial steps is to ensure that children have access to a diverse and nutritious diet from an early age, enabling them to reach their full potential in the future (UNICEF, n.d.).
The US advisory panel, a governmental organization providing guidance on child nutrition since 1980, made a commendable recommendation in 2020 to limit processed sugar intake during the first two years of infants' lives. This initiative serves as an excellent example of influencing the public to make necessary changes based on scientific evidence that highlights the importance of nutritional exposure in shaping long-term health and food preferences (LaMotte, 2020). However, the full impact of this initiative is yet to be assessed in the coming years.
Encouragingly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is actively working on promoting nutritious food for children in schools to combat the sugar epidemic. After eleven years, the committee has launched a revised lunch program that aims to reduce the consumption of products containing excessive amounts of sugar, such as yogurts, cereals, and flavored milk. Instead of banning muffins and doughnuts altogether, experts are focusing on limiting sugar in schools. Research shows that school meals are the healthiest meals of the day for most kids, highlighting the importance of providing these meals to children (Murez C, 2023).
While the consumption of added sugars in the United States had been steadily increasing until 2020, this trend is not entirely negative. Medical experts have noted that sweetness can alleviate pain in young infants, emphasizing the importance of individual observation (Johnston et al., 2014). However, excessive sugar intake can lead to Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in certain children, resulting in future learning and medical issues.
Ensuring Healthy Development with Safer Food Solutions for Children
Governments, policymakers, and food companies, both in the USA and globally, should collaborate to create a more stable food environment. Improvements can be made in terms of food availability, pricing, advertisements, and the range of products offered. In addition to a country's political and economic status, the personal environment plays a crucial role in a child's health.
Furthermore, parents and caregivers play a vital role in promoting healthy eating habits and reducing sugar intake in children's diets. However, not all parents have the financial means to provide the best nutrition for their children. This is where children's rights to life, survival, and development come into play.
Governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have a responsibility to ensure that children can grow and develop in a safe and nurturing environment. This can be achieved through the enforcement of laws and the establishment of effective child protection systems. By working together to raise awareness and provide equitable access to education and healthcare, children can be protected.
To promote the well-being and vitality of both children and adults, it is crucial to strike a balance in the consumption of added sugars by incorporating natural sources of sweetness, such as fruits and vegetables, into a balanced diet. By doing so, children can reduce their reliance on added sugars while still satisfying their sweet cravings.
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CDC. (2022). Childhood Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from
Lindberg, E. (2020). 6 ways to avoid hidden sugars in children's food. The Washington Post. Retrieved from
UNICEF. (n.d.). Improving children's diets around the world. Retrieved from
LaMotte, S. (2020). Added sugars: Don't get sabotaged by sweeteners. CNN. Retrieved from
Murez, C. (2023). USDA Tackles Sugar in New School Lunch Program. WebMD. Retrieved from
Johnston, C.A., et al. (2014). Artificial sweeteners: A systematic review of metabolic effects in youth. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, 9(6), 660-672. Retrieved from