Cirrhosis of the liver. Kidney failure. Diabetes. Sleep Apnea. Death.
You hear of these diseases and, most likely, your brain conjures up images of older men or women; potentially ones who have been abusing alcohol for far too long.
Unfortunately, these are the exact same health issues approximately 1 in every 3 children in the US are at risk of facing. In fact, the effects of chronic alcohol abuse mirror that of too much sugar in diet.
According to Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, there is an epidemic currently sweeping our nation and our children are the victims. In this video, Lustwig explains that the downward spiral of health in kids can be directly attributed to the exponential intake of sugar found in popular foods like cereal, drinks, snack bars, and baked goods. Our grocery stores, cafeterias, and entertainment venues are chalked-full of processed food, readily available to our youth.
And as a parent myself, I understand the struggle. When I was pregnant, I set out on a mission to provide my future son only the healthiest food options. However, that noble undertaking quickly came to a halt when everyday “road blocks” made it seemingly impossible. As a busy working mom I wasn’t able to stop and make an all-organic, sugar-free, gluten-free, fiber-and-vitamin rich meal whenever my son had a hankering for food. Quickly my homemade smoothies were replaced with easy-to-reach premade granola bars or juice pouches. When you are a busy parent, you do what you can to make life easier, even if it sometimes means cutting corners.
Anyone who has perused the aisles of a Whole Foods is well attuned to the fact that “eating healthy” means “spending substantially more money.” When factoring convenience with financial reasonability, (and a multi-billion dollar effort from the food companies to advertise and target your kids) it is easy to see how this issue arises.
It’s no secret that sugar is not good for you. According to a recent study in the UK, added sugar should only make up about 5% of your child’s daily caloric intake and yet the average kid eats about 15%. This doesn’t include natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables, which is inarguably better for your kid than added sugar, but is still processed throughout the body the same way. Lustig also explains that because alcohol is a sugar itself, it is processed in the liver and kidneys just as any other sugar would be. Thus, an abundance of daily sugar intake leads to problems like cirrhosis of the liver because the body cannot distinguish sugar from alcohol. Even evidence of kidney failure can be seen in kids that struggle with obesity and malnutrition.
Think about that… Your kid’s innards could essentially look similar to that of your old drunk uncle. This is, well, terrifying. As parents, it’s our job to set the precedent for what our kids can and cannot eat. It’s not always easy to provide children with proper nutrition (seeing as its difficult enough keeping ourselves on a diet), but we owe it to our kids. Children should be worrying about soccer practice, birthday parties and Taylor Swift’s next song. They should not have to worry about their bodies no longer functioning because we as parents were either too busy or too lazy to pay attention.