The American Heart Association is recommending that children between the ages of 2 and 18 consume less than 25 grams (0.88 ounce) of added sugars daily.
Equivalent to about six teaspoons of sugar, the recommendation was made uniform across the age group to make it easier for public health advocates, parents and guardians to remember.
This is according to Miriam Vos, lead author of a study published in the journal Circulation. She also said that consuming nothing beyond six teaspoons of added sugars in a day is a healthy, achievable target.
Eating food with a lot of additional sugars during childhood has been linked to heart disease risk factors, like increased obesity risk and high blood pressure. Not to mention that those who are used to eating food with added sugars have a tendency to eat not so healthily, doing away with vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy items and whole grains that will do their hearts a lot of good.
Sugar remains one of the most commonly added ingredients to food and beverages, but it is not clear just how much added sugar can be considered as safe for the little ones. And with the average child in the U.S. consuming about three times the recommended added sugar intake, it's not surprising to expect a rise in children who are overweight, which makes them predisposed to insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
To come up with their recommendation, the researchers comprehensively reviewed studies that have researched the effects of additional sugar to a child's health.
"We believe the scientific evidence for our recommendations is strong and having a specific amount to target will significantly help [in providing] the best nutrition possible for our children," said Vos.
For children below 2 years old, the researchers recommend that added sugars not be included at all in their diet because they have lower caloric needs than those who are older. As such, they don't have space in their diets for added sugars that don't offer nutrients.
Additionally, the researchers pointed out that taste preferences are molded early in life. Limiting sugar intake in very young children then may help them in developing a preference for healthier food options.
Added sugar is defined as being any kind of sugar or sweetener like honey used in the preparation or processing of food or beverages. Additional sugars also count toward those eaten separately.
Beginning July 2018, food manufacturers will be required to include added sugars in nutrition labels, which should help make it easier for consumers to avoid sugary drinks.
Previous dietary guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization recommend that added sugars should represent no more than 10 percent of calories consumed. The current recommendation from the American Heart Association is aligned with these guidelines.