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Infants, toddlers have too much added sugar in their diets, researchers say

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Philadelphia — Nearly all toddlers and more than 3 out of 5 infants consume added sugars in their daily diets, results of a recent study show – findings researchers say could lead to poor eating habits and health concerns later in life.

The researchers analyzed 2011-2016 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of more than 1,200 infants (6-11 months) and toddlers (12-23 months) to find national estimates of added sugars intake, identify top sources of added sugars and examine trends in added sugars intake.

Results showed that 98% of the toddlers and 61% of the infants consumed added sugars in their average daily diets. Infants consumed about 1 teaspoon of added sugars daily (around 2% of their daily caloric intake), mainly from yogurt, baby food snacks and sweet bakery products. For toddlers, that number was about 6 teaspoons (approximately 8% of daily intake), coming mostly from fruit drinks and sweets.

“This has important public health implications since previous research has shown that eating patterns established early in life shape later eating patterns,” lead investigator Kirsten A. Herrick, a program director at the National Cancer Institute, said in a Nov. 14 press release. “Previous research into the diets of children over 2 years old associated sugar consumption with the development of cavities, asthma, obesity, elevated blood pressure and altered lipid profiles.”

The researchers suggest that parents be more mindful about added sugar levels in foods when transitioning young children from a milk-based diet (breast milk and formula) to table foods. In September, the academy joined three other health organizations in releasing a new set of beverage recommendations for children from birth through age 5. The recommendations include breast milk, infant formula, water and plain milk. Parents are urged to avoid flavored milks, such as chocolate and strawberry, along with sugar- and low-calorie sweetened beverages.

The study was published online Nov. 14 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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