The US Surgeon General ranks being overweight or obese as the #1 public health concern because of the disease consequences are greater than those of any infectious disease epidemic. Remember, too, that our children are not an exception here!
Dr. David Katz, named one of 25 most influential people in children’s lives, says that this generation of kids will be the first to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
“Children today will experience more chronic degenerative disease as a result of their poor eating habits than from cigarettes, alcohol and drugs combined,” he said.
This is not very promising news.
Dr. William Sears, a well known pediatrician and father of eight, agrees.
“We are eating factory processed nutrition which is genetically unknown food to our bodies.”
These foods are not just the typical cookies, cakes and donuts, but they also include those made from highly refined carbs like chips, crackers, energy bars, energy drinks, cereals, and numerous other “white” foods. In a nutshell, it boils down to bad carbohydrates – and usually in the form of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and highly refined flours.
Here are some more alarming facts:
- 1 out of 2 children will develop heart disease
- Cancer kills more children than any other disease.
- 1 in 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes
- Children at the age of 3 have fatty deposits in their arteries.
- By age 12, 70% of all American children have developed beginning stages of hardening of the arteries.
- Less than 7% of children and adolescents consume the recommended 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables per day.
So How does Sugar Harm Us?
The complex carbohydrates found in vegetables, grains, and fruits are good for you; the simple sugars found in sodas, candies, frostings, and packaged white refined foods do harm. Here’s why:
1. Sugar depresses immunity. Studies have shown that consuming 75 to 100 grams of simple sugar solution (two average 12-ounce sodas) can suppress the body’s immune responses.)
2. Sugar affects behavior, attention, and learning. Studies on the effects of sugar on children’s behavior are certainly contradictory, but the general consensus is that some children and adults are sugar sensitive, meaning their behavior, attention span, and learning abilities deteriorate in proportion to the amount of junk food they consume. And this trend is increasing.
3. Sugar promotes sugar “highs.” Some people are more sugar sensitive than others, and it has been suggested children may be more sensitive to sugar than adults are. A study comparing the sugar response in children and adults showed that the adrenaline levels in children remained ten times higher than normal for up to five hours after a test dose of sugar. Studies have also shown that some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.) react to glucose-tolerance tests with a dip to low blood-sugar levels, which produces abnormal behavior.
4. Sugar promotes cravings. The more sugar you eat, the more sugar you want! A high-sugar meal raises the blood-glucose level, which triggers the outpouring of insulin. This excess insulin lingers in the system, triggering a craving for more sugar, thus adding another hill to the roller coaster ride.
5. Sugar promotes heart disease. When you eat excess carbohydrates, your body may turn these sugars into fat. The body stores excesses of most nutrients as a safeguard against starvation. If you eat more carbohydrates than you can burn off, the excess is stored as fat. People who eat too much sugar tend to have higher blood triglycerides, and this increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
What About Soda?
Many soft drinks provide a double-whammy of sugar and caffeine, a combination that sends most bodies (and minds) on an uncomfortable biochemical roller-coaster ride. The junk sugars (including high fructose corn syrup) in soft drinks also take good things out of the body. High doses of sugar and excess artificial sweeteners increase the urinary excretion of calcium, leading to weaker bones, or osteoporosis, and to deposits of calcium in the kidneys (i.e., kidney stones.). The phosphoric acid present in many soft drinks further robs the body of calcium by increasing the loss of magnesium and calcium in the urine.
The Bad Rap on Baked Goods
The combination of 1) white sugar, 2) white flour, and 3) hydrogenated shortening makes packaged baked goods (i.e., crackers, chips, cookies, etc) nutritionally empty. Most sweet snacks contain all three of these factory-made foods. Look for baked goods that are made with whole grains, contain no hydrogenated oils, and are sweetened with real fruit or agave and lower amounts of sugar (a serving should not exceed six grams of sugar.)
What about Artificial Sweeteners?
Artificial additives in moderation are generally fine, but it’s when they are consumed in excess they may become problematic. The issue is they are in almost everything, without you even being aware of it. They’re even in medications and vaccines, especially those made for children.
Here are just a few documented symptoms from the Department of Health and Human Services that can come from artificial sweeteners:
- rapid heart rate
- slurred speech
- loss of hearing loss of taste
- muscle spasms
- anxiety attacks
- ringing in the ears
- visual disturbances
- memory loss
- joint pain
- shortness of breath
And here are some illnesses that may be triggered or worsened by ingesting aspartame (an artificial sweetener):
- brain tumors
- Alzheimer’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
- chronic fatigue
- mental retardation
- birth defects
Other names for artificial sweeteners: Aspartame is also neotame, Sucralose is Splenda, Acesufame-K (this is a combination of chemical sweeteners) is Sunette or Sweet One.
So whether it’s sugar or artificial sweeteners, use them in moderation, for you and your children – ideally no more than 10% of your total dietary intake, and less, if possible.
Written by Elaine, certified nutritionist and Greenlite Medicine Health Educator.