We know that many kids eat too much sugar, and that this can be bad for your kids’ teeth, increasing the risk of cavities and gum disease. We also know that consuming too much sugar can lead to health risks like obesity and diabetes. However, a new study has shown that the negative impact for consuming too much sugar goes beyond teeth and even overall health risks. Instead, consuming too much sugar has been linked to kids’ behavioral problems, including bullying, fighting, alcohol, and drug use.
A Huge International Database
Although the study was performed by researchers at Bar Ilan University in Israel, the data comes from a study conducted by the University of St. Andrews and the World Health Organization in 2013-14. The study looks at children from 25 European countries and Canada, and focuses on kids age 11, 13, or 15.
The study looked at different kinds of sugar consumption, as well as numerous behavior problems. Researchers say that there were “strong and consistent” relationships between high levels of sugar consumption and behavior problems, including engaging in individual behaviors like fighting, bullying, alcohol use, cigarette use, or drunkenness, and their risk of engaging in multiple such behaviors
The research revealed that high sugar consumption was linked to the risk of both the individual behaviors and to the risk of engaging in multiple bad behaviors. Children who consumed high levels of sugar were almost 90% more likely to smoke, 72% more likely to drink alcohol, and 69% more likely to be a bully. In addition they were more than twice as likely to get into physical fights.
The association was independent of other factors, like a child’s socioeconomic status, and their psychological well-being.
Not All Sugars Are Created Equal
Although all sugar did have an association with elevated risk of behavior problems, the sugars weren’t all associated equally with the bad behaviors. Sugary drinks had the strongest association with bad behavior, much stronger than the link between chocolates and other candies.
Researchers speculated that the stronger association might be due to the presence of caffeine in sugary drinks like soda and energy drinks.
Another Good Reason to Cut Down on Sugar
This study gives us another good reason why we should cut down on our kids’ high levels of sugar consumption. It’s especially a good idea to cut down on the consumption of sugary drinks, which are not just full of sugar, they are also highly acidic. The acid from these drinks can badly erode children’s teeth, causing permanent damage.
It’s not easy, but here are five steps recommended to get control of kids’ sugar consumption:
- Target sugary drinks first–this is the biggest danger, so it makes sense to target it first. It’s also the easiest to take out at home–there are easy substitutions. But remember, fruit juice can be as bad as soda.
- Pack snacks at home–this will help kids (and you) avoid the temptation to pick up sugary snacks and drinks from vending machines.
- Portion control is a good place to start. Instead of cutting out sugar completely, try reducing portions so kids eat less sugar but still get treats.
- Cook at home more often. Processed foods and especially fast foods contain a surprising amount of sugar, even if the foods are more savory than sweet.
Doing this will help you get your kids’ sugar consumption under control. Some research suggests that you may see some benefits in as few as 10 days.
Find a Health Partner for Your Whole Family
Cutting sugar consumption is a great way to improve the oral health of your entire family. But it’s also important to have a partner to protect and restore your oral health. You can schedule checkups for the entire family.