Breakfast High in Sugar Proven Bad for Children

Summary
Many breakfast cereals are very high in sugar content. This study shows that high-sugar cereals have certain disadvantages and affect other food habits of children during breakfasts. High-sugar cereals could be avoided as this study found that children do not hate less sweet cereals and they tend to eat more fruit with cereals that are lower in sugar. The researchers of this study state, “Children will consume low-sugar cereals when offered and they provide a superior breakfast option.”

Introduction
Children consuming breakfast regularly have healthier nutrition. Ready-to-eat (RTE) cereals are a very common children’s breakfast option. RTE cereals, specially marketed for children, have significantly high levels of sugar. The content of sugar in RTE cereals is an issue of debate. While the high sugar content makes the food item more palatable and could succeed in luring children into having breakfast, it also leads to a higher caloric intake by the children. This study “examined how the level of added sugar in an RTE cereal affected children’s consumption of cereal as well as other foods and beverages served at the meal.”

Methodology
•    Ninety-one children, aged between five and twelve years, participated in this study and they were divided into two groups. One group was given high-sugar cereals and the other was given cereals with less sugar. In both groups the children had access to extra sugar, fruit (strawberries and bananas), milk and orange juice.
•    After the meal, the children were asked to complete a questionnaire. The researchers noted the quantity of sugar packets used and measured all the other food consumed.
•    Appropriate statistical analyses were done after the study.

Results
•    The children mentioned that they either “liked or loved” both the high-sugar and low-sugar varieties of cereals.
•    Children from the high-sugar cereal group ate more cereal than those in the low-sugar cereal group. Although those from the low-sugar group added more sugar, the total sugar consumption was more in the high-sugar cereal group.
•    Children in the low-sugar cereal group used more fresh fruit on their cereal.
•    Besides these differences, older children were noted to have consumed more.

Shortcomings
As only one meal was served with a narrow range of food selections, the results may not be generalized to a broader extent. It remains to be seen whether the children would make similar choices when faced with wider selections of food over a longer period of time. This experiment was not performed with a diverse sample with regard to race and economic status. Thus it is not known whether factors such as socio-economic position, body weight and usual sugar usage affected the outcome.

Conclusion
In this study, the sugar content in RTE cereals has proven to be a significant factor. High-sugar cereals led to a higher number of servings and more calories per meal, with lesser chances of adding fruit to the meal. Cereals with low sugar content increased the overall dietary value of children’s breakfasts by increasing the probability of including fruit. With more choices of the low-sugar cereals presented, children were noted to select their favorite brand without asking for high-sugar cereals. On the whole, cereals that are not too sweetened would be a better choice for children; and if required, these could be served with added sugar rather than serving high-sugar cereals.

For More Information:
Effect of Serving High-Sugar Cereals on Children’s Breakfast-Eating Behavior
Publication Journal: Pediatrics, December 2010
By Jennifer L. Harris, PhD; Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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