Study Finds That the Source, Not Just the Quantity, of Sugar May Impact Children’s Weight

Researchers from the University of Groningen and University Medical Centre Groningen in the Netherlands delved into the influence of sugar sources, not merely quantities, on weight gain in children.

Examining data from GEKCO Drenthe, an ongoing study of children born in Drenthe between 2006 and 2007, the team analyzed responses from parents of 891 children who completed a food intake questionnaire when the children were three years old. This information was used to calculate daily sugar intake.

Subsequently, nurses recorded the children’s height and weight to compute a body mass index (BMI) z score, indicating how many standard deviations a child’s BMI deviates from the average for their age and gender.

On average, the group consumed 112g of total daily sugar. Among the 102 children of normal weight at age three who became overweight or obese by age 10 or 11, researchers observed that total sugar intake at age three did not correlate with weight gain. However, a higher consumption of sugar from snacks like cakes or sweets was associated with a higher BMI z score in later years.

Conversely, a greater intake of sugar from fruit or unsweetened dairy products such as milk was linked to less weight gain and a lower BMI z score. Children with the highest intake of these products at age three exhibited a 67% lower risk of becoming overweight or obese by age 10 or 11 compared to those with the lowest intake.

Junyang Zou from the University of Groningen’s Department of Epidemiology noted, “The findings suggest that children should be encouraged to consume fruit and milk rather than sweetened milk and yogurt drinks, sweets, cakes, and other foods rich in added sugar.”

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