Sugar Addiction in Children

Sugar is added to many processed foods, and children are increasingly addicted to the sweet stuff. Many children are more sensitive than adults to the effects of sugar. Children crave sugar, because when they have some they tend to crash as it is digested, making them want more so they feel better. If you think that your child may have a sugar addiction, consult with your child's doctor to determine the best course of treatment.

Sugar is very addictive to children, because children are more sensitive to its effects. (Image: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images)

Sources

Many foods have added sugar, and you may not realize how much sugar your child is consuming. Each gram of sugar equates to 1/4 tsp., so 12 g of sugar equals 3 tsp. The average person should only be getting 6 to 12 tsp. of added sugar per day. Limit or avoid jarred pasta sauce, soft drinks, fruit juice, sugary breakfast cereal, yogurt, ketchup, salsa, canned soup and candy. Look for ingredients that contain the suffix, "ose," such as fructose or sucrose, because they are added sugars. Other ingredients that indicate sugar content include high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, cane sugar, sorbitol and molasses.

Symptoms

The primary symptom of a sugar addiction is behavioral issues. According to Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons, author of "Little Sugar Addicts," you will want to slowly change sugar consumption so that your child's behavior will gradually improve, while ensuring that the modifications you make to her diet will stick. Children with a sugar addiction may exhibit problem behaviors such as irritability, mood swings, low self-esteem, tantrums and excessive talking; such behaviors will disappear when they consume sugar. Your goal is to eliminate the negative feelings your child experiences when her body is craving sugar. Slowly eliminate sugar sources and replace them with healthy foods from all the food groups, including fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains. This will cover her nutrient needs as well as make her feel healthier, and it leaves little room for sugary snacks and beverages. Over time, she will stop craving the sugar, and her body will adjust to the new diet, improving behavior along the way.

Complications

Many negative consequences are possible when your child consumes too much sugar and becomes addicted to it. According to Momscape, sugar addiction in children can damage cells, lower immunity, lead to obesity, fill a child up on empty calories and make him irritable and hyperactive. Regularly consuming too much sugar can also interfere with insulin production and may lead to diabetes. This is because when sugar is consumed, it causes a spike in blood sugar, which causes a secretion of insulin and a crash in blood sugar levels, making a child hungry and tired. In short, weaning your child off sugar will improve his health and reduce his chances of problems.

Expert Advice

Help your child learn to eat a healthier diet and connect his feelings and mood to what he eats. Teach your child to start the day with a healthy breakfast that includes protein and complex carbohydrates to replace sugar. Shift from refined foods to whole grains and cut out sugary drinks and snacks a little at a time. Finally, help your child understand that high sugar intake makes him feel unhealthy and that healthy alternatives make him feel better.

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