Some Sugar for Your Child’s Brain?

sugar for child brain

Aren’t candies, chocolates, ice creams or muffins children’s favourite foods? It gets difficult for us adults to keep our hands off these as well. Studies suggest that high levels of Sugar consumption in children affect their body weight, oral health and also brain health. We have seen parents using these foods to bribe their children. The immense mood swings and irritability in kids of today’s generation is because of the poor eating habits, Shocked? Read more…

Effect of Sugar on the brain

what you eat insertEating sweets activate tongue receptors and signals the brain to release a hormone called dopamine (feel-good hormone). This hormone activates the brain’s reward system and thus makes one addicted to sweets. This results in a chain of reactions like loss of control over behaviour, sweet cravings and increased tolerance to sugar. Over-activation of this reward system in obese children can predispose them to a lifetime of intense sugar-craving.

Effect of Sugar on cognition

blog inert sugar cinnamon swapWe all know that sugar is metabolised by the hormone “insulin”. Reduced insulin levels in the body causes diabetes. Lack of insulin can also affect cognition in children. Insulin strengthens the communication between neurons. This is called the synaptic connections, which are required to form strong memories. Children consuming excess sugar may produce less insulin, which can therefore harm their mental and physical development.

Effect of Sugar on mood

Have you heard about the sugar rush? When you give sugar-filled goodies to kids they suddenly burst out with super energy that needs to be exploded. The end result is we parents start complaining about their hyperactivity. Sudden peak and crash in sugar levels in the brain cause symptoms like fatigue, brain fog and lack of concentration. Studies also prove that sudden dip in sugar levels can cause inflammation. This results in immense mood swings, irritability, anxiety and depression, especially in teenagers.

Effect on immune system

blog insert immunity immuneSugar and phagocytes (Type of WBC) are enemies. Sugar has a similar chemical structure as Vitamin C which is a must for the proper functioning of phagocytes. Excess sugar competes with Vitamin C and hence directly affects the immune system. This makes your child prone to frequent cold, cough and allergies.  Weakened immunity can further affect your child’s growth thus impacting the overall well-being of the child.

Know what your child is eating

WHO has recommends 25-30 grams of sugar per day for children above 2 years.

  • Sugar may be deceived into food supplements in the name of barley malt, dextrose, dextrin, corn syrup, HFCS, fructose etc. Read the food ingredient labels carefully to identify above-mentioned names. Also, find out the amount of added sugars per serving to limit the excess sugar intake.
  • A cup of ready to eat flavoured yogurt may contain 4-5 tsp of sugar in it. The best alternative is sugar jaggery blog insertadding fresh pieces of fruits and little honey to a plain yogurt to make it healthier.
  • A tbsp of tomato sauce or ketchup has 10 grams of sugar. One tbsp of jam or jellies contain more than 12 grams. Try to give homemade ketchup or sauce, jams, and jellies.  This way, one can avoid food preservatives and artificial colors too.
  • A cup of packed fruit juice like apple or mango has 7 tsp of sugar. Here you have to be a little tricky with a child to manage stubbornness. Dilute the juice by adding 2 parts of drinking water to 1 part of juice, to reduce the sugar intake.
  • Avoid soda pops, lemonades, and other caffeinated beverages. Instead choose fresh sugar cane juice, lemon juice or tender coconut water.
  • Chocolate drinks can be swapped with homemade chocolate smoothies. You can enrich it with walnuts, pistachio etc. Help and urge your child to enjoy fresh fruits and homemade sweets.
  • It is very hard to keep a kid away from sugary treats like simple chocolates, cake, biscuits andchild nutrition blog insert ice creams. Practice moderation. Never give sweets as rewards and make sure these sweets are occasional treats and not a regular in everyday meal.

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-Aruna, Asha

Consultants, Nutrition