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Still too much sugar for children and teenagers


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Adolescents are particularly susceptible to a high sugar intake because they have a high genetic preference for sweet foods. This preference slowly diminishes until adulthood. Researchers at the Universities of Bonn and Paderborn have shown that sugar intake among children and adolescents in Germany has been declining since 2005, but still exceeds the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). The study has now been published in the European Journal of Nutrition.

A high sugar intake is associated with a higher risk of various diseases such as dental caries, overweight and obesity, and cardiovascular disease. For this reason, in 2015 the World Health Organization limited the recommended intake of free sugar to a maximum of ten percent of daily energy intake. Since 2018, the German Nutrition Society has followed this recommendation. Free sugar is the sugar in food added by the manufacturer or during preparation in the household or naturally contained in juices. Total sugar, on the other hand, takes into account the total sugar content of a foodstuff, including the sugars it naturally contains.

A team of scientists from the Universities of Bonn and Paderborn investigated the sugar consumption of 1,312 children and adolescents aged between three and 18 years. Between 1985 and 2016, the DONALD study (DOrtmund Nutritional and Anthropometric Longitudinally Designed Study) recorded three-day weighing protocols for these participants and thus also the proportion of free and total sugar.

Long-term study on 700 adolescents

The DONALD study is a long-term study on the effect of nutrition on humans, financed by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. This research project is also funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) via the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE).

The study currently involves 700 healthy children and adolescents. Since 1985, detailed data on nutrition, growth, development, metabolism and health status have been collected at regular intervals from infancy to adulthood. Since January 2012, the long-term study carried out in Dortmund has been part of the Institute for Nutrition and Food Sciences (IEL) of the University of Bonn as a branch office.

Scientists from the DONALD study in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Anette Buyken from the University of Paderborn worked on the evaluation of the sugar trend analyses. A total of 10,761 three-day weighing protocols were examined for age and time trends in sugar intake. Accordingly, the intake of free sugar decreased slightly in the years from 2005 to 2016, but in these years the average value was still more than 16.3 percent of the daily energy intake.

Even if the decline in sugar intake is already a positive development, the intake is still far above the recommendations," says Dr. Ute Alexy from the University of Bonn, which is leading the DONALD study.

Since the study participants come from families with a high socio-economic status, the sugar intake in the total population in Germany is presumably much higher. However, it is certainly not enough to further explain the negative effects of a high intake of sugar. What is needed is a coordinated combination of food policy measures to reduce the addition of sugar to our food.

Age also had an influence on sweetness consumption: the proportion of total sugar in energy intake decreased with increasing age. In contrast, the youngest subjects aged three to four years had the lowest intake of added sugars. "We suspect a shift in sugar uptake from natural sources such as fruit and fruit juices with increasing age towards increased sugar uptake from sweets, drinks and sweetened dairy products," said Ines Perrar, PhD student at the University of Bonn. "This will be investigated through further analysis." The scientists are currently investigating whether the decline in the consumption of special food groups is responsible for the decrease in sugar intake and whether the trend analyses can be confirmed by the use of a biomarker.

Note: This article has been translated using a computer system without human intervention. LUMITOS offers these automatic translations to present a wider range of current news. Since this article has been translated with automatic translation, it is possible that it contains errors in vocabulary, syntax or grammar. The original article in German can be found here.

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