That Sugar Movement


Sugar, metabolic syndrome, and our kids

160803_TSF_BlogHero_01Metabolic syndrome. A complex disorder where high blood pressure, high triglyceride and low HDL cholesterol, insulin resistance, and being overweight, are all players.1

Letting these factors go unchecked and you’ve considerably increased your risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The good news is diet and exercise can help prevent or manage such symptoms. Which is important, as our kids are now being seen with metabolic syndrome and associated factors.

Take insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, for example. Type 2 diabetes used to also be referred to as adult onset diabetes. Yet, according to recent stats, numbers of U.K. children with type 2 diabetes is on the rise, and research has shown the prevalence in U.S. teens is now higher than expected.2;3

And it seems excess added sugar consumption has a big role to play in increasing the risk for each of the factors involved in metabolic syndrome, according to recent research.

Metabolic syndrome and added sugars

A small study published in Atherosclerosis found that slight adjustments in diet could improve levels of biomarkers of cardiovascular disease in children in as little as 9 days.4

37 obese kids with metabolic syndrome, aged 9-18 years, were given only one major change to their diet – reduced added sugar intake. Energy and all other food intake remained the same, but foods with added sugars like flavoured yoghurt and pastries were subbed with foods such as pizza and bagels, from 28% to 10% over total energy in the day.

It is interesting the study authors chose to swap one type of ‘junk’ or discretionary food with another. However, it is unlikely they are encouraging we chow down on bagels and pizzas 5 times a day in the long term!

But for the purpose of this short intervention, the swap in foods indicate that reducing high fructose consumption correlated with reduced levels of biomarkers associated with cardiovascular disease risk – including triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels – in kids that are severely overweight and have metabolic syndrome.

Overall, the study portrays quite simply the impact that added sugars has on heart health, independent of fat, protein and total carbohydrate intake.

And earlier in the year, the same group of researchers found a similar impact when swapping added sugars with other forms of carbohydrates in kids with metabolic syndrome.

By replacing any food with added sugar with a non-added sugar equivalent in some form of a starch, the participants saw drops in triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels, as well as significant improvement in fasting blood glucose and insulin sensitivity in only 10 days.5

What these studies indicate is not only the impact of high amounts of added sugar in the kid’s diet but of heavily processed foods in general.

We can all agree that eating too many foods packed with added sugars is not good for anyone. And whilst these trials may be small in duration and participant size, and without a control, changes were seen.

The impact of excess sugar consumption has on our littlies is far reaching, affecting their learning, weight, teeth, as well as contributing to the metabolic situation mentioned above.6;7

The development of type 2 diabetes may also be influenced by the health of the intestinal microbiome. And the health of our gut can be largely dependent on the quality of what we stick in our gobs.

Boost the health of your kids through food

The World Health Organisation states added or free sugars should only comprise 5% of total intake for health benefits.8

And while cutting added sugar intake is a great step in boosting our kidlets health, it is only the first.

Go the next step by replacing heavily processed and refined foods with whole food versions – it will do wonders for short and long-term health.

We understand that feeding kids can be difficult, as they can be super fussy! But eating a heap of veg, some animal or plant sourced protein, and including some whole food fats can provide protective and satiating nourishment, whilst helping them grow big and strong!

Choose foods that are of good quality, and close to its original form as possible. Try falafels instead of frankfurters; light, fresh white fish instead of fish fingers; chicken tenderloins over chicken nuggets; and whole grains over the white stuff.

There are some simple ways to boost nutrient density of a diet, including sneaking in veg, fruit or legumes wherever you can, like brownies with black beans, or adding pureed carrots or pumpkin into cheesy sauces.

Whole foods, especially veg and fruit, can be protective, and can result in long-term health benefits – so why not give it a go?

By Angela Johnson (BHSC Nut. Med.)



  1. Better Health Channel 2016, ‘Metabolic syndrome’, State Government of Victoria, viewed 26 July 2016, <>
  2. Menke A, Casagrande S, Cowie CC 2016, ‘Prevalence of Diabetes in Adolescents Aged 12 to 19 Years in the United States, 2005-2014’, JAMA, 316, no. 3, pp. 344-345.
  3. Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health 2016, 500 children suffering from type 2 diabetes is ‘wake-up call’ for the nation, viewed 26 July 2016, <>
  4. Gugliucci, A Lustig, RH Caccavello, R Erkin-Cakmak, A Noworolski, SM Tai, VW Wen, MJ Mulligan, K & Schwarz, J 2016, ‘Short-term isocaloric fructose restriction lowers apoC-III levels and yields less atherogenic lipoprotein profiles in children with obesity and metabolic syndrome’, Atherosclerosis, [Epub ahead of print].
  5. Lustig,, RH Mulligan,, K Noworolski, SM Tai, VW Wen, MJ Erkin-Cakmak, A Gugliucci, A and Schwarz, J 2016 ‘Isocaloric fructose restriction and metabolic improvement in children with obesity and metabolic syndrome’, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 453-460.
  6. de Ruyter, J. C., Olthof, M. R., Seidell, J. C. & Katan, M. B. A Trial of Sugar-free or Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Body Weight in Children. New Engl J Med367, 1397–1406 (2012).
  7. Harris, R., Nicoll, A. D., Adair, P. M. & Pine, C. M. Risk factors for dental caries in young children: a systematic review of the literature. Community Dent Health21, 71–85 (2004).
  8. World Health Organisation 2015, WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children, viewed 26 July 2016, <>
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