Effects of Excess Sugar Consumption on Kids, and Tips to Reduce Their Sugar Intake

Sugar for Kids – How Much is Too Much?

Medically Reviewed By
Anindita Bhattacharya (Diabetologist/Nutritionist/Dietitian)
View more Diabetologist/Nutritionist/Dietitian Our Panel of Experts

Sugar is hard to let go, but the consequences of consuming it will at least make you reconsider your choice. Kids love sweets and handing them a sweet is an easy way to calm them down. But, how much is too much is the question here. Sugar is important to consume, but to what extent should be known.

What is Sugar?

Sugar generally appears white in colour, and it is scientifically known as sucrose, a compound that is made from hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen.

There are a number of forms in which sugar is available, such as:

1. White Table Sugar

White table sugar

This is the most common type of sugar available in almost every household. This type of sugar is derived from sugarcane plant that is grown extensively around the globe for its naturally occurring, sweetening properties.

2. Honey


Honey is the type of sugar that originates from beehives. This type of sugar is believed to be a healthy sweet and is recommended for people who are on a diet or prefer to consume a healthy sweetening agent.

3. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup

This is the type of sugar that is derived from the sap of maple trees. The compound that is found in high intensities in maple sugar is sucrose. It has a unique flavour and is commonly used as a sweetener in waffles, pancakes, or oatmeal.

4. Brown Sugar

Brown sugar

This is a type of sugar that is a blend of white sugar and molasses. Brown sugar is naturally moist as molasses is known to be hygroscopic, and for the same reason, this sugar is known as “soft.”

Is Eating Sugar Bad for Kids?

Eating sugar is not bad, but consuming it in excess can have an adverse impact on their health. Moreover, the type of sugar preferred also decides its effect on a kid’s health. When sugar is consumed beyond a specific limit, it may result in negative effects on a kid’s overall, long-term health.

Why is Sugar in Fruits Healthier than Sugar in Other Food Items?

All types of sugar contain calories, whether the source is a fruit or any other food entity. But the sugar in fruits is known as “natural” sugar, which is a blend of sucrose, fructose, and glucose. Fruits contain sugar, but only in limited amounts. But other types of foods contain “free” sugar, which can affect one’s health to a great extent.

This is because the sugar contained in other food entities has been extracted from its natural source and, thus, is sweeter. Studies have shown that foods that contain free sugar can lead to tooth decay or obesity in kids and, thus, should be avoided to an extent. Fruits, preferably, should be served to kids as they will not only help in staying hydrated but also help develop good eating habits.

How Much Sugar Should a Child Have Per Day?

According to the World Health Organization, 10% of a day’s energy comes from sugar. But, in this case, the recommended sugar intake for kids should not exceed 5% on a routine basis. Talking about kids’ sugar intake, for a girl kid, of about 5-7 years, 6-10 spoons of sugar would be more than enough. On the other hand, if the kid is a boy, 8-12 spoons of added sugar should be fine.

Effects of Eating Too Much Sugar on Kids

Excess of anything is harmful, and so is the case with sugar. Some harmful effects of consuming too much sugar in kids include:

1. Malnutrition

When your kid consumes sugar, he may feel full. This is because sugar content augments the blood glucose and that, in turn, makes the hunger urges fade away. So, it is recommended to stop your kids from consuming any form of sweets in excess, as this may distance them from a proper and a nutritious diet required for the proper growth of their mind and body.

2. Causes Virus-Like Symptoms

Not all, but some kids may develop asthma hay fever or other infections due to over-consumption of sugar. It could be a runny nose or even infections related to frequent urination. Some kids may also develop a cough when they are asleep. This happens when sugary dairy products are served to kids as this can lead to acidic creations in the system that further leads to muscle spasms inside the larynx.

3. Obesity

AN obese kid

Serving your kids excess sugar can definitely lead to obesity, due to fat build-up and empty calorie- consumption. And, an important fact to consider here is that not only foods that contain sugar should be avoided, but also beverage consumption should be limited. Even WHO recommends limiting sugar intake that comes from fruit juices, processed foods, pies, chocolates, and syrups.

4. Skin Issues

Kids who consume more sugar are susceptible to dandruff skin roughness, acne, or even rosacea, as sugar can cause flaky skin, skin, itching, and damage to hair follicles. When a body gets continuous doses of sugar-rich foods, it becomes insulin resistant, which, in turn, leads to excessive hair growth on the skin, and even dark patches on the skin area. Sugar also leads to inflammation and wrinkles on the skin, which may become difficult to recover from.

5. Interference With the Ability to Learn and Remember

When a kid consumes sugar content in excess, the amount of BDNF or more aptly brain-derived neurotrophic factor gradually decreases. And, this is the very chemical that helps in retaining memory and helps in developing responsiveness. Thus, these negative effects of sugar on children may lead to lack of learning or grasping power.

6. Cavities

There are bacteria present in the mouth, and when kids consume sugary food, the sugar reacts with bacteria to create acid, which further results in tooth decay or cavities. Too much sugar consumption results in cavities, and the sugar-saliva-bacteria combination leads to plaque on the teeth.

7. Diabetes

Sugar leading to obesity in kids has already been spoken about. But, diabetes, specifically Type 2 diabetes is related to obesity. Thus, when excess sugar is served to kids, they may become vulnerable to developing serious diseases like diabetes.

8. Behavioural Issues

When talking about how sugar affects children’s behaviour, it should be known that it is refined sugar that amplifies aggressiveness in a kid. This is because kids show sensitivity towards sugar content due to weaker immunity an,  thus, the intake of excessive sugar leads to rushing in of adrenaline. This rush of hormones also correlates sugar and hyperactivity in children, making it difficult to handle such situations.

How to Get Kids Off Sugar – 7 Effective Tips

Here are some tips that can help kids stay safe from the negative effects of sugar.

1. Substitute

Substituting free sugar with natural sugar is a viable option. Instead of serving pies and chocolates, offer fresh yoghurt and fresh juices to kids.

2. Modify the Juice

Even if you are serving processed or artificial juices to your kids, prefer adding freshly cut fruits or cucumber to it, to reduce the sugar content it originally has to offer.

3. Cut Down on Sugary Drinks

Be it soda, sports drinks, or even that morning breakfast orange juice, cut down on these drinks and help your kids develop a habit of drinking more of water.

4. Do Not Rely on Healthy Alternatives

Don’t live in a misconception that honey is always good for health, owing to its natural background. It is a better alternative to sugar, but an excess of it can also be harmful.

5. Prefer Plain or Fruit Mixed Yoghurt

Yoghurt with fruits

Yoghurt is good for health. But when you buy yoghurt, make sure it is a plain one with no added sugar content or artificial flavours. And, if your kid does not like his yoghurt plain, add freshly cut fruits to it.

6. Make Your Kids Aware

Teaching your kids values from the very beginning is important. Tell your kids what sugar can do to their health. Also, give them live examples and explain too them patiently why they should cut down on sugar.

7. Prefer a Gradual Change

Do not force your kids to cut down on sugar consumption all at once. Rather take it slow. Start small and gradually reduce sugar-laden food.

A kid’s health is important, and helping him develop good eating habits from the very start can help him stay healthy and fit in the long-run. Sugar can be harmful when consumed in excess, so make sure to limit your kid’s sugar intake.

Also Read: Malnutrition in Children

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