How Much Sugar Intake Should Children Have? - Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics

How Much Sugar Intake Should Children Have?

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sugar intake

Do you know how much sugar intake you should limit yourself to in order to keep your health and your teeth in shape? What about a child’s sugar intake? Studies show that children are eating more sugar than college students and adults alike. In many cases, that is due to the foods they are given for their meals. An adult should not have more than 40 grams of sugar during the day, but a child generally gets much more than that. No matter your age, you should be leery of having too much sugar in your diet. Sugar is the food that plaque thrives on. Children sometimes have cavities more often because of sugar intake that is not combated with enough brushing and flossing. Learn all about the effects of sugar on your health and your teeth and how much a child should have in their diet to stay healthy!


What Does Sugar Do?

We have all heard of sugar, but what is it really besides something that is sweet and found in dessert? The Sugar Association explains that sugar is actually a carbohydrate that is naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Carbohydrates help the body to have energy to work hard throughout the day. The highest amount of sugar is found in sugar beets and sugarcane. These are named as such because they are made of over 99% pure sugar.


Because sugar is a carbohydrate, and carbs help give your body energy, people generally crave sugar when they are hungry. People will also crave foods high in carbohydrates because their bodies desire energy. Sugar will give you energy for a bit, but it’s usually burned up very quick in the body. That means, you may feel a short burst of energy, but that generally only lasts 20-30 minutes. If too much sugar is eaten, your body can experience a “crash” of fatigue. Not only is your energy short-lived, but too much sugar can lead to obesity and many chronic diseases such as diabetes. There are much better sources of energy by seeking out healthy carbohydrates and proteins for energy instead of sugar.


How Sugar Affects Your Teeth

Sugar plays a large role in the formation of cavities. The amount of sugar intake you have can actually indicate your risk for tooth decay. Tooth decay is caused by plaque. Plaque is actually made from sugars in the foods you eat mixed with bacteria in the mouth. This creates an acidic substance that eventually leads to cavities. Plaque will sit on the teeth and, over time, will erode them enough that the plaque can get inside your tooth. Once this happens, a tooth can decay very rapidly.


Tooth decay is another term for “cavities”. Many people have cavities, and sugar is the cause. In fact, studies show that tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in children and adults. America’s sugar addiction, as well as many added sugars in foods today, are a large reason why cavities are so prevalent. To reduce your risk for tooth decay, limit how much sugar you are eating and brush and floss your teeth often to remove plaque.


Sugar Intake for Adults

The American Heart Association recommends specific amounts of sugars that both adults and children should limit themselves to each day. Women should only have about 6 teaspoons of sugar throughout their day. For men, their sugar intake recommendation is 9 teaspoons. The AHA also recommends that women drink only 100 calories or less of drinks with added sugars each day. For men, that’s about 150 calories of sugar intake. To make it easier to read labels, a teaspoon of sugar has about 4 grams of sugar in it. If a product label says it has 16 grams of sugar in it, that means, there are 4 teaspoons of sugar in the food. What about children?


Sugar Intake for Children

The AHA recommends that children should have a sugar intake of less than 6 teaspoons of added sugars each day. This means sugars that are not naturally in the foods they eat, or ones that the manufacturers add. Children under 2 years of age should not consume foods or drinks that have added sugars at all. The recommendation of 6 teaspoons sugar intake for children equates to about 25 grams of sugar total throughout the day. This amounts to 100 calories of sugar. However, many studies show that children are exceeding that recommendation and that many children consume much more sugars than adults do.


Studies have found that many toddlers are already consuming more than 12 grams of sugar on a daily basis, which is well past the daily recommendation. 4-8 year olds consume around 21 teaspoons a day on average and 14-18 year olds consume about 34 teaspoons of the sweet stuff. It’s no wonder that cavities are so prevalent in both children and adults! With that much sugar intake, it’s hard to keep the teeth protected from the damaging effects of sugary plaque.


Overall Health and Wellness

Your oral health is a major indication of your overall health and wellness. If you take great care of your teeth, odds are that you are taking care of other aspects of your health. Many people don’t realize the damage sugar does to their teeth on a daily basis. Many also don’t realize that a lot of their sugar intake is through drinks. A great recommendation is to switch your sweet drinks out for water each day. See the dentist often. Brush and floss your teeth several times a day. If you want to know more about sugar or how you can take better care of your teeth, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics today at (720) 887-6003!