The American Heart Association’s New Recommendations on Added Sugar for Children

Last week the journal Circulation published the American Heart Association’s scientific statement “Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children”. They’ve taken a bold new position on sugar consumption: children should consume less than 6 teaspoons of “added sugars” a day, and drink no more than 8 ounces of sugary beverages a week. Bolder still, they advise that children younger than 2 shouldn’t have any added sugars.

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The typical American child consumes about three times their recommended amount of added sugars, half from food and half from drinks, said Dr. Miriam Vos, lead author of the statement and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. The primary contributors to added sugar intake are soda, fruit-flavored and sports drinks, and cakes and cookies. The AHA’s new recommendations, Vos said, emphasize that families need to limit food with low nutritional value and that sugars need to be put into the perspective of a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meat, poultry and fish.

Beginning July 2018, the Food and Drug Administration will require that all food labels declare the number of grams and percent daily value (%DV) for added sugars. With the current food labels, it’s difficult to follow USDA or AHA guidelines for added sugar, as not distinguished from naturally occurring sugars. With this update, parents will be able to see right away that one bottle of soda or juice is unhealthy for their child.

In the meantime, what can we do to help families stay within the recommended amounts of added sugar for children? We can create healthy policies in key community environments and settings in order to make healthy eating and activity choices easier (see our Pledge the Practice, Pass the Policy Program!) We can urge parents to choose water instead of sugary drinks for their children. We can support policies that reduce availability, accessibility, and consumption of sugary beverages in Contra Costa communities, particularly among children ages 0-5. HAB45 remains committed to ensuring children in Contra Costa grow up at a healthy weight, and these new recommendations from the AHA make our case for healthy eating policies even stronger.

For more information, see AHA’s Top Ten Things to Know: Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children