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One Major Side Effect of Eating Too Much Added Sugar, Says New Study

A new study suggests that overconsumption of sugar in childhood can pose immediate threats to development.
FACT CHECKED BY Jennifer Maldonado
sugary snacks on a white plate

By this point, you know added sugars can be detrimental to your health in the long run. However, new research suggests that younger populations may be at greater risk of more immediate threats.

Based on the results from a new animal study conducted by researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), and published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, children who consume too much sugar may be at greater risk of becoming obese, hyperactive, and cognitively impaired by adulthood.

Keep in mind, this study was conducted on mice. However, the results could be indicative of the effects sugar can have on kids. The study revealed that when mice were given a smaller daily dose of sucrose (table sugar), they had a much lower risk of weight gain and other health problems than those that consumed larger quantities.

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According to the American Heart Association (AHA), men should limit their consumption of added sugars to 9 teaspoons (36 grams) daily, and women are encouraged to consume even less at just 6 teaspoons (25 grams). The AHA advises that children eat less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily to maintain good heart health.

Despite these recommendations, (and those from other leading health organizations) children, adolescents, and adults in more than 60 countries consume closer to 100 grams of added sugars each day, says QUT neuroscientist Professor Selena Bartlett.

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"More work needs to be done in the investigation of the long-term effects of sugar on adolescents and adults but our results with the mouse model are very promising," Professor Bartlett said in a statement. "Recent evidence shows obesity and impulsive behaviors caused by poor dietary habits leads to further overconsumption of processed food and beverages but the long-term effects on cognitive processes and hyperactivity from sugar overconsumption, beginning at adolescence, are not known."

In the study, Bartlett and her team found that after a 12-week period of feeding mice that at the beginning were just five weeks old, experienced weight gain and elicited both abnormal and excessive stimulation of the nervous system by the end of the trial.

"These data suggest that sugar-induced obesity may participate to the developing pathogenesis of ADHD-like symptoms in western countries. In children, high sugar consumption correlates with hyperactivity and in adults, with inattention and impulsivity," Bartlett said. "What has been unclear though, is whether chronic overconsumption of sucrose—starting from childhood—would have the same negative impact on our nervous system, emotions, or cognition throughout adulthood as other addictive drugs."

Bottom line: This study suggests there's a link between consuming too much sugar at a young age and weight gain and hyperactivity. Not something you want for the little ones in your life, right?

For more, be sure to check out 14 Kids' Cereals You Always Leave on Grocery Store Shelves.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of <Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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