Children as young as six months old are eating way more added sugar than they should, according to a new study of 800 American infants and toddlers conducted by an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. Results show that more than 80 percent of kids under 23 months ate added sugars on a given day (The American Heart Association recommends children under 2 years not eat any added sugar). And older toddlers, those in the 19-23 month age range, consumed an average of 7 teaspoons of added sugar daily, more than is recommended for adults.
“There is actually no need for added sugars to any human, let alone a child,” registered dietician Jodi Bullock told Iowa news station KCCI in response to the results. “So, it’s funny when people ask, ‘What is the recommended allowance for this?’ It’s sort of like, ‘How many treats can I eat and get away with it?’”
While this might seem like a problem stemming from a lack of healthy food options among poorer families, the study actually didn’t find any differences based on toddlers’ Poverity Index Ratio. Turns out, all kids are eating too much crappy sugar.
What’s disturbing is how young infants are when they begin to be fed added sugars; the survey found 60 percent of babies younger than 6 months had eaten added sugar. That increases to 98 percent for children 12-18 months. Certainly some of that might come from parents feeding their kids “adult foods” like candy or cookies or soft drinks, but it might also come from packaged baby and toddler foods. A recent CDC examination of those foods found that 41 percent of infant mixed-grain and fruit foods contain added sugar.
Products that might seem healthy to parents—baby foods, toddler snacks, yogurts, juices, fruit snacks—can actually contain way more sugar and empty calories than a kid needs. The American Academy Of Pediatrics recommends, for example, not feeding juice to kids under 12 months old because of added sweeteners. So it looks like American parents have one more thing to add to their terrifyingly long to-do lists: check packaged food labels for sugar content.