Sugar Squeezing Out Nutrition in Preschoolers' Diets

Snacks, soft drinks displacing fruit, grains, vegetables and dairy products

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MONDAY, Jan. 17, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Added sugar displaces healthy foods in the diets of American preschool children, says a Penn State study.

It found that preschoolers in the United States consume an average of about 14 to 17 teaspoons of added sugar each day. Most of this added sugar is in cola-type soft drinks, high-fat desserts and fruit-flavored drinks.

These items displace grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy foods, resulting in a lower quality of diet among preschool children.

"In contrast to other researchers, we found that although the most dramatic decrease in vitamin and mineral intakes were observed when children had added sugar levels of more than 25 percent of total calories, consumptions of grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy products and the proportion of children receiving an adequate intake of calcium were low even at added sugar levels of less than 10 percent of calories," study leader Dr. Sibylle Kranz, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences, said in a prepared statement.

"These results suggest the new National Academy of Sciences Dietary Reference Intake, which sets a cut-point of 25 percent or less of calories from added sugar, are reason for concern," she said.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid limits added sugar consumption to between 6 and 10 percent, and the World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugar consumption to less than 10 percent," Kranz noted.

She and her colleagues analyzed the diets of 5,437 preschoolers. The study appears in the January issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about healthy eating for children.

SOURCE: Penn State, news release, Jan. 12, 2005

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