Children and Sugar: Are They At Risk?

Two alarming new studies indicate that children with higher sugar consumption (in drinks and food) may be at a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer later in life.

In one study, conducted at Penn State’s Center for Childhood Obesity Research, researchers looked for symptoms of heart disease and diabetes in 154 white non-Hispanic adolescent girls. This research is particularly interesting because diabetes and heart disease have traditionally been adult diseases and studied in adult populations. Now symptoms like insulin resistance, abdominal obesity, high blood pressure - a cluster of symptoms known as “Metabolic Syndrome” - are showing up more frequently among adolescents. Metabolic Syndrome is often a prelude to full-blown diabetes, and significantly increases the risk for heart disease.

The researchers looked at 13 year-olds with symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome and then worked backward to see what factors stood out in their histories during ages 5-11. A key finding: the girls at higher risk for Metabolic Syndrome consumed significantly more servings of sugary drinks between the ages of 5-9!

Meanwhile, according to a new study of Swedish men and women reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, indulging in foods and drinks with high sugar content is associated with an increased risk for pancreatic cancer. “Given the practical implications of these findings and the poor prognosis of pancreatic cancer, further research on sugar and high-sugar foods… is warranted,” said lead researcher Susanna C. Larsson, MD.