Cutting sugar from kids’ diets appears to have a beneficial effect in just 10 days

By Ariana Eunjung Cha for The Washington Post

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American kids consume an insane amount of sugar — often double or triple the federal recommended dietary guidelines — and these empty calories are often blamed for everything from obesity to hyperactivity in the schools. What happens when we take it away?

Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco and Touro University decided to find out by recruiting 43 volunteers, ages 9 to 18, and putting them on low-sugar diets and measuring all kinds of things about how their bodies changed as a result. All of the study participants — 27 of whom identified as Latino and 16 as African American — were obese and had at least one other metabolic health issue, such as high blood pressure or a marker of fatty liver.

The study participants underwent extensive testing that included everything from basic blood pressure measures and cholesterol counts to oral glucose tolerance tests and sophisticated bone density scans.

The children (or their parents) filled out a food questionnaire and were interviewed by a dietitian to come up with a baseline diet. The scientists then designed a new diet that included a similar amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates as their normal diet but cut out 10 percent to 28 percent of the sugar and replaced it with starch calorie-for-calorie.

The transformation in the kids was almost immediate.

“All of the surrogate measures of metabolic health got better, just by substituting starch for sugar in their processed food — all without changing calories or weight or exercise,” study author Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, said in a statement.

After 10 days, the researchers saw a reduction in diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Glucose tolerance and the amount of excess insulin circulating in the blood improved.

Read more here.

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