Spanish children consume 55.7 P./day of added sugar, more than twice what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends, which is 25 P./day. This is evident from an observational study by researchers from the “José Mataix Verdú” Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology, University of Granada (UGR), which was recently published in the American Journal of Nutrition.
A diet rich in free sugars is associated with an increased risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. In fact, childhood obesity figures continue to increase every year, with a prevalence of overweight and obesity in childhood of 23.3% and 17%, respectively.
The authors of the article “Consumption of added sugar in Spanish children (7-12 years) and the nutrient density of foods that contribute to said consumption” have built an index to evaluate the nutritional value of foods under study. In it they reported the nutrient density in each serving of each food and the daily intake consumed.
According to the authors, it is necessary to review the diet less to encourage foods with a higher nutritional density and a lower contribution of added sugar.
The research, which included the participation of 1,775 parents with children between the ages of 7 and 12, distributed through an online extension, was led by Jesús Francisco Rodríguez Huertas, professor of physiology at the UGR. Researchers from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology UGR, from the Biosanitary Institute of Granada (ibs.Granada), from the Ricors Network, from Carlos III, the Health Institute SAMID Network (Maternal and Child Health and Development), from the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology ‘José Mataix Verdú and the Biomedical Research Center at the UGR.
Among the conclusions, the experts point out that it is necessary to review the minor diet to encourage the presence of foods with a higher nutritional density and a lower contribution of added sugar, as well as to continue in the reformation of the product design of the food industry. .
65% is from foods with low nutritional density
According to the results, 65% of added sugars consumed daily by Spanish children come from foods and/or products with low nutritional density: white sugar, pastes, sauces, sweets, cocoa powder, soft drinks, ice cream, cookies, fruit nectars. , industrial cakes and pastries, chocolate bars, homemade cookies and cakes, energy and/or sports drinks.
Another 35% of added sugars consumed daily, on the other hand, from foods and/or products with a higher nutritional density: medium density, such as dairy desserts, vegetable drinks and sweet or savory yoghurts, and high density (ie. packaged shakes with at least 90% milk , with cereal for breakfast and milk for the baby).
According to data from the study and the NDIS index, milk is the food most consumed by Hispanic children and has the highest nutritional density – only improved by fortified infant milk, which is the food with the highest contribution of nutrients per serving. -. Milk provides proteins of high biological value, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin A, riboflavin and niacin, essential nutrients for the stage of development and growth.
In the case of breakfast cereals, they have a high nutritional value and 5.9% of added sugars consumed daily (3.3 g/day). The same occurs with milk at least 90% quassies, which also provide these nutrients in similar weights, with the difference that they contain added sugars – they provide 6% of the added sugars consumed daily (3.4 g / day) -, so they could be kept in the diet, with an index of nutritional density have a high level, while the global consumption of added sugars is below WHO recommendations.
On the other hand, cookies and cocoa powder, which contain more than 10.3g/serving and 7.3g/serving of added sugar, are consumed very often (between 4 and 6 times a week) and are therefore the two foods that contribute the greatest amount of added sugar daily to the diet of Spanish children . None of these foods provide a significant supply of essential nutrients due to their low nutritional density.
Parents no matter what
The study shows that not all parents have a clear vision of the nutritional profile of the food their children consume. In fact, significant products that have added sugar per serving (above 15 g/serving) and have a low nutritional density (<1.5 on the NDIS index), such as energy or sports drinks, chocolate bars, fruit nectar, cocoa powder or ice cream is perceived by parents as having a normal nutritional quality, equivalent to other foods with low added sugar content and high nutritional density, such as fortified, non-dairy infant formulas. drinks, breakfast cereal, or at least 90% milk shakes.
Case highlights homemade biscuits and cakes, which parents rate as having a good nutritional profile, equivalent to infant formula or fortified vegetable drinks, with 17g of added sugar per serving and a slim profile. . Or cookies, which are widely consumed by most children, are perceived positively, even though they contain more than 10 g of added sugar per serving.
Milk is the food most consumed by Spanish children and has the highest nutritional density
Enriched infant milks are the highest category analyzed with their nutritional density – twice that of basic milk in terms of nutrients -, with a small amount of added sugars (<5 g per serving), thus a potential opportunity to improve the purity of children’s food, considering the intake of deficiencies of some essential nutrients.
To indicate foods according to their NDIS, the authors considered milk as a reference food quality, with the NDIS III ratio, since it provides a significant amount of nutrients without containing added sugar. Therefore, foods with an NDIS close to milk (NDIS > 2.5) are considered to be of high nutritional value. Foods with an NDIS between 1.5 and 2.5 were considered medium nutrient dense, and foods with an NDIS less than 1.5 were considered nutrient dense.
Regarding the content of added sugars, products with a low added sugar content were considered those with less than 5 g per serving, those with a moderate content of added sugar with 5-10 g per serving, and those with the highest content of added sugar with 10-15 g. per serving, and those with more than 15 g per serving have the highest added sugar content.
They also calculated the previously described indexes that assess the quality of food, such as SAIN (Score of Nutritional Adequacy of Individual Foods) which considers the content of protein, fiber, iron, calcium and vitamin C and LIM (nutrient limited) which considers unhealthy nutrients: sodium, added sugars and saturated fatty acids. Food with a SAIN index >5 is considered to have good nutritional density. Food with a LIM index >7.50 is considered rich in nutrients that are harmful to health.
Proposals to reduce consumption
One of the main conclusions of this work is that the nutritional value of food should not be evaluated only from the sugar it contains, but the other nutrients that can contribute to the diet should be considered, that is, nutrition. tarium
“The population should be aware to reduce the consumption of all products that contain added sugars, especially those with low nutritional quality. In the context of a healthy and nutritionally adequate diet, the occasional consumption (1–2 servings/week) of products with low nutritional quality could be maintained, as long as the added sugar content low or moderate,” says Jesús Franciscus Rodríguez Huertas. , studio manager.
On the other hand, he adds, “the lower presence in the diet of products that have significant amounts of added sugars should be encouraged in favor of others similar or equivalent without added sugar, for example natural yogurt instead of seasoned or flavored yogurt. ; the reformation of products that provide added sugars and are highly consumed; and the improvement of the nutrition label, which should offer more information about the real contribution of added sugars and reduce confusion with naturally present sugar”. In this sense, according to the researcher, “campaigns of nutrition education are necessary for both parents and children.
Rodríguez Huertas, JF et al. “Added Sugar Consumption in Hispanic Children (7-12 y) and the Nutrient Density of Foods Contributing to Such Consumption: An Observational Study”. Nutrition (2023).