Hidden Sugars may have serious effects on children's heart health

Parents should be careful about hidden sugars in their child's foods… they may have serious effects on their heart health…

For the first time ever the American Heart Association (AHA) is taking a stand on sugar intake. The AHA reviewed and graded the most recent scientific evidence for studies examining the cardiovascular health effects of added sugars on children. Here is what they concluded:

  1. Children ages 2-18 should have no more than 6 teaspoons (or under 25 grams) or 100 calories of added sugar a day to avoid the risk of adverse effects on cardiovascular health.  

  2. And only one sugar-sweetened beverage, such as soda, fruit-flavored and sports drinks, sweetened teas and energy drinks per week.

  3. Children ages 0-2 should have zero added sugars including sugar-sweetened drinks. 

In an ABC story1 referencing the AMH study, kids are consuming a whooping 90.5 grams of sugar per day.  That is over three to often four times the recommended amount by the AHA.2 (Watch the ABC news video here.) 

You may be wondering how kids are possibly over consuming this much sugar? Well, added sugars are not the same as the natural sugars that are found in foods like fruit and diary and found in foods you may not even be aware of when loading up your grocery cart.   According to the AHA scientific statement: “added sugars are any sugars – including table fructose, sugar and even honey – either used in processing and preparing foods or beverages, added to foods at the table or eaten separately. Starting in July 2018, food manufacturers will be required to list the amount of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel making it much easier to follow the recommendations in this scientific statement”.

For example, in sugary cereals like Fruit Loops, there are about 12 grams of added sugar for a single serving. Most people consume twice to three times the listed serving size. By doing so, the sugar intake then climbs up toward 28 to 36 grams of sugar at one sitting, which is already over the total recommended daily intake of sugar. Here is a helpful link to show the amount of added sugars found in breakfast cereals.

Other examples of common foods with added sugars include ketchup, tomato sauce, orange juice, fruit yogurt, bread, granola bars, dried fruit and the obvious sugary beverages. So make sure to start checking those nutrition labels for the amount of sugars in each product the next time you hit the grocery store. You may be alarmed by how quickly the sugars add up and surpass the recommended less than 25 grams per day.

AHA recommends the best way to avoid added sugars is to limit foods with little nutritional value and to incorporate more nutrient dense foods like vegetables, whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and lean meat.

There is still a long ways to go and lots of work to be done regarding the studies on sugar and nutrition. More research is urgently needed in order to provide the data required to make policy decisions. But the good news is that we are at least on our way…. hooray!

Helpful Links:

Added sugar

Any sugar added in preparation of foods, either at the table, in the kitchen or in the processing plant. This may include sucrose, high fructose corn syrup and others.

SugarScience Glossary


Sugars are chemicals made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen found which taste sweet and are found in food. They are an important part of what we eat and drink and of our bodies. On this site, sugar is used to mean simple sugars (monosaccharides) like fructose or glucose, and disaccharides like table sugar (sucrose). Sucrose is two simple sugars stuck together for example (see Table sugar). Sugars are a type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are energy sources for our bodies Sugars enter the blood stream very quickly after being eaten.

SugarScience Glossary


One of the three major groups of nutrients we eat. Much of this website is related to problems associated with too much fat storage in the body. Each gram of fat produces 9 calories of energy if burned by the body as fuel. Fat can be stored in many places in the body. We generally think of fat as under the skin (subcutaneous), but the fat that may be most damaging to us is the fat stored in the liver and around the organs of the abdomen (intrahepatic and visceral or abdominal or intra-abdominal)

SugarScience Glossary


A sugar that we eat. Also called fruit sugar. Most fructose comes in sucrose (table sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar), or from high-fructose corn syrup.

SugarScience Glossary

SugarScience is the authoritative source for evidence-based, scientific information about sugar and its impact on health.

Mary C. Wiley, PsyD

Mary C. Wiley, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in the Bay Area for nearly 20 years. She works primarily with addiction and mood disorders utilizing evidence-based approaches (cognitive -behavioral approach and mindfulness) therapies.

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