With a 13.5% prevalence of obesity in children aged 6 – 14 years, child obesity in South Africa is a serious and growing public health concern. As a leading contributor to obesity in children and the association between sugar consumption and the risk for heart disease in adulthood, parents need to be educated of the dangers associated with a high sugar intake and the fact that health problems can show up as early as adolescence.

The food industry mainly uses high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or sucrose derived from cane sugar to sweeten processed foods. HFCS is a cheap additive and is usually made from genetically modified corn. This is added to fizzy drinks, breakfast cereals, cereal bars, ice cream, yoghurts, jam, biscuits, pizza, muffins, cupcakes, chocolates, pastries and tomato sauce, to name but a few.

In particular, fizzy drinks are linked with obesity and diabetes and have alarming consumption rates among children. A tin of Coca Cola contains 7 teaspoons of sugar, while a tin of Fanta Grape contains 9 teaspoons of sugar!

High sugar consumption in children has a multiple of adverse health effects:

  • It causes tooth decay by providing easily digestible energy for bacterial growth.
  • Excessive sugar consumption can contribute to the aggravation of the symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as other difficulties in concentrating, aggression, mood swings and destructive behavior.
  • Sugar can easily overload their liver, especially if they are inactive, resulting in the overproduction of insulin, blood-sugar crashes, cravings for more and eventually insulin resistance/diabetes.
  • Some children may suffer from chronic runny noses, excessive mucus, cough and symptoms of sinus infections.
  • The body’s microbiome is made up of trillions of good bacteria that digest food, produce vitamins and protect it from germs and disease, but excessive sugar consumption can alter the balance between good and bad bacteria and ultimately weaken the immune system.

No GP, specialist, teacher, medical aid or supplements can replace our role in our children’s health. The way to give our children a healthy relationship with food is not necessarily what we’ve been taught by the media. It’s intuitive. It’s called motherly instinct. It’s about how we connect our children’s hearts with good nutrition and about the example we set as parents. They will follow us Twitter @GenesisMedical


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