Change4Life, a National Health Service United Kingdom program, has a sugar-tracking app for parents and children to maintain health. To promote healthy living among families, they urge parents to use the new app to determine the amount of sugar children have in their drink and other food items.

The "sugar smart app", endorsed by NHS UK and Public Health England, works by scanning barcodes and revealing the total sugar content in terms of cubes or grams. Health experts hope that this app will help curb problems linked to increased sugar intake among children, such as tooth decay, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. In some cases, it may also increase the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Children aged 4 to 10 years old consume around 22 kilograms or 48.4 pounds of added sugar each year. That is equivalent to about 5,500 sugar cubes and the most common sources are carbonated drinks, cakes, breakfast cereals, fruit juices, pastries, biscuits, buns and puddings. Kids are consuming three times more sugar than they should be.

"Children are having too much sugar. This can lead to painful tooth decay, weight gain and obesity, which can also affect children's wellbeing as they are more likely to be bullied, have low self-esteem and miss school," said Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for Public Health England.

"Children aged 5 shouldn't have more than 19 grams of sugar per day. That's five cubes, but it's very easy to have more. Our easy-to-use app will help parents see exactly where the sugar in their children's diet is coming from, so they can make informed choices about what to cut down on," she added.

How Does The App Work?

The app works on more than 75,000 products, making it easier for parents to assess products that may harm their kids' health by containing too much sugar.

After signing up and downloading the free app, parents can scan barcodes of products they want to buy from grocery stores. Upon scanning, the app will now interpret and reveal how much sugar that particular product contains.

For example, a can of cola contains as much as nine cubes of sugar, a chocolate bar contains six cubes of sugar and a small carton of juice has more than five cubes of sugar. A muffin contains around five sugar cubes, while a chilled dessert and cake slice contain four sugar cubes.

Sugar Intake Of Children By The Numbers

According to the report by Change4Life, about 30 percent of the sugar in the diet of children come from sugary drinks like sodas, juice drinks, cordials, energy drinks and squashes.

The latest recommendations show that children aged 4 to 6 years old should not consume more than 19 grams of added sugar, children aged 7 to 10 years old should have a maximum added sugar intake of 24 grams and kids aged 11 years old and above have a maximum added sugar intake of 30 grams.

Excessive sugar intake in children may lead to obesity. Obese children are likely to be overweight or may become obese adults and be at risk of developing diseases such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and heart attack.

In the United Kingdom, there is a marked increase in the proportion of obese adults from 13.2 percent in 1993 to 26 percent in 2013 for men and from 16.4 percent to 23.8 percent for women.

Among children aged 4 to 5 years old, the proportion of obese children increased from 9.3 percent in 2013 to 9.5 percent in 2014. In children aged 10 to 11 years old, the proportion of obese children increased to 19.1 percent in 2014 from 18.9 percent in 2013.

Photo: Uwe Hermann | Flickr

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