Feb 29, 2012 5:10 AM
Feb. 29, 2012 -- U.S. children and teens have cut down on added sugars but still eat too much, according to a new report.
"Added sugar consumption is high among children and teens," says Cynthia L. Ogden, PhD, an epidemiologist with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, which issued the report.
About 16% of total calories eaten by children and teens are from added sugars, Ogden found.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting intake of ''discretionary'' calories, including added sugars and solid fats, to a total of 5% to 15% daily.
The new report is published as an NCHS Data Brief.
Ogden examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It is a government survey that assesses the health and nutritional status of the U.S. population.
Added sugars are defined as sweeteners added to processed and prepared foods. Eating too much added sugar has been linked to weight gain and an increase in cholesterol levels in teens that may raise the risk of heart disease.
Overall, the children and teens took in 16% of their total calories from added sugars. However, Ogden found that boys ate more than girls. Boys got 16.3% of calories from added sugars. Girls got an average of 15.5% of their calories from added sugars.
How might that translate to calories? "Boys 12 to 19 got 442 calories [a day] from [added] sugar," Ogden tells WebMD. "A little over three regular sodas a day would give you that."
In a previous report, other CDC researchers found that from 1999 to 2000, children 12 to 17 ate about 22% of their total calories from added sugar, Ogden says. In the new report, Ogden looked at teens 12 to 19. Boys in this age range got 17.5% of their calories from added sugars; girls, 16.6%.
"The amount of sugar consumed is still extraordinarily high," says Robert Lustig, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. He has proposed that sugar be regulated. He reviewed the report findings for WebMD.
He notes that the amount of added sugar eaten by the 6- to 11-year-olds was not much different than that eaten by the 12- to 19-year-olds. That is a concern, he says, since the older children would need more calories overall, on average.
"The amount is still so far over what any rational physician, dietitian, or government agency would have us be eating," he says.
"It's still a major problem."
Parents can help their kids cut down on added sugar intake, says Paul Pestano, a research analyst with the Environmental Working Group. He co-authored a recent report on sugary children's cereals.
"Try to limit processed foods," he says, "because that is mostly where it comes from."
On this list are kids' sugary cereals, granola bars, cookies, and candies. Jams and syrups can also have high amounts of added sugar, he says.
"If you are shopping for canned fruit, look for ones that are canned in water and not syrup or juice," he says.
Also, cut down on juice and soda.