A new study from the University of California (San Francisco, USA) demonstrates how quickly the health improves in children who were eating a high sugar diet but then switched to a low sugar diet. In just 10 days, these children showed very significant improvements in markers of good health such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels.
The researchers studied 94 children, age 9 to 18, who were already patients at the University Obesity Clinic, so they were all in danger of developing diabetes, or even “metabolic syndrome”. This is a mix of medical risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sugar levels, and obesity in the abdominal area.
Before the study, the children were getting about 28% of their calories from sugar. When their diet was changed, their sugar intake lowered to about 10%, which is considered a healthy level of sugar intake. Each child was assigned a dietician who supervised them during the study as they cut our sugary drinks and cereals, sugared baked goods, and any other food or drink that had added sugar.
Instead of these foods, the children were given other foods as substitutes, including pizza, baked potato chips, and all other foods and beverages were with no added sugar. For example, instead of sugary drinks, they ate fresh fruit.
The researchers kept the total calorie intake of each child the same during the experiment as they were eating before the study. This was to show that any improvement in their health was not due to a decrease in calories consumed, but rather a drop in the sugar consumed.
The results were striking and encouraging. Even though the kids lost an average of .9 kg during the study period, the changes in their blood pressure and blood test markers were more significant. Their levels of LDL cholesterol (the worst form), dropped by an average of 10 points. Their triglyceride levels —a type of fat that sticks inside the blood vessel walls—dropped by 33 points.
Their blood pressure dropped an average of 5 mm Hg, and their fasting blood sugar and insulin levels likewise showed improvement. In short, all these kids who were at high risk for developing serious metabolic problems in adulthood were pulled back from this risk.
The conclusion is that the sugar that is added to the children’s diets, and not a high caloric intake, was the main factor giving them serious metabolic risks.
This was a fairly small study over a short period of time, and further larger studies will certainly be done. But this research is just another strong piece of evidence that decreasing the sugar you eat, in solid foods or drinks, is a more important for your cardiovascular health than your total calorie intake. Whether adult or not yet an adult, cutting down on sugar will give you many benefits.
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