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Contrary to opinion, Aussie kids are getting no less sweeter

By RJ Whitehead , 22-Oct-2012
Last updated on 22-Oct-2012 at 16:15 GMT

A new study has revealed that more than half of Australian children are still consuming too much sugar—flying in the face of the established belief that its intake has declined over recent years.

Researchers at Wollongong and Sydney Universities found that the consumption of added sugar increases as children get older to the point that, on average, boys between the ages of 14 and 16 consume up to 22 teaspoons each day.

"While other reports suggest that total sugar consumption in Australian children may have declined slightly in recent times, this new work suggests that added sugar intake remains high," said Timothy Gill, research author and principal research fellow in the Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise at the University of Sydney.

Previous findings flawed 

"Research in this area is hindered in Australia because our food composition datasets do not currently distinguish between total and added sugars. This project was set up to help separate added from naturally occurring sugars in food products consumed in Australia."

The World Health Organisation recommends that children should not receive more than 10% of their energy from added sugars. However, this latest study has found that teenage boys take up to 13% of their sugar intake from added sugars.

Research author Jimmy Louie, from the University of Wollongong, called for improved labelling to show what are total and added sugars.

"Products such as milk, fruit and certain cereals are high in natural sugars, as well as good sources of key nutrients, as opposed to most foods high in added sugars," he said.

Sugary drinks in the mix

Health experts are now keen to further investigate the direct contribution from sugary drinks, especially after a report from last year by researchers at the University of Western Australia placed sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) at the heart of a rise in sugar consumption by children in the country. 

It revealed that over three-quarters of all SSBs is purchased from supermarkets and 60% is consumed at home, whereas less than 17% is sourced from school canteens and fast-food outlets.

Accordingly, the researchers called on retail outlets to carry out evidence-based and age-targeted interventions to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among young people.

The report, however, found that there was no significant association between high or regular consumption of SSBs and the likelihood of a child being overweight or obese, which contradicted earlier established research.

Editor's note: As a parent, are you concerned about how much sugar your children consume? Do you check a product's label for sugar quantity before adding it to your shopping basket? And are you setting a good example through your own consumption of food and drink? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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