Pour Some Sugar on Me … Or Maybe NOT

the effect of sugar on kids

That Sugar Film (now playing on Amazon Prime) was recommended to me by a friend following a conversation about food and its effect on our kids. I’m no extremist (enjoying birthday cake, a delicious restaurant dessert on a special night, or just a weekend ice cream stop is normal for us); however, I do consider myself a healthy-eater and I encourage my family to be as well. Read more on this below.

The documentary, narrated by Australian Damon Gameau, walks you through details about what types of sugar are in foods, what it does to you body, and what short-term and long-term effects you can cause by eating high-sugar foods. Interestingly, Damon does this experiment on his own body, which immediately experiences health effects after just 60 days of eating more sugar.

Damon’s Experiment – What You Should Know

  1. Damon is a healthy eater and doesn’t eat any added sugar at the beginning of the documentary. This is hard to believe, but he’s Australian and their culture seems to be much healthier than the average American diet.
  2. Damon decides to do a 60-day experiment to figure out some things about health and eating before his newborn daughter comes into the world, which is a pretty special and dedicated parent task!
  3. Damon does not eat ANY junk food! (No ice cream, candy, or sodas!) He only eats foods that are considered healthy (like yogurt, juice, granola bars, sports drinks). He consumes the Australian average of 40 teaspoons of sugar per day during the experiment which is equal to about 167 grams. The average American consumes much more than that.
  4. Outcome: In just 3 weeks, Damon starts to develop fatty liver disease, and by the end of the 60 days, he’s in early Type 2 Diabetes and has about 5 inches added to his midsection. He complains of having foggy brain function, feeling fuzzy, and experiencing mood swings. Basically, he feels like crap and sees how addictive the sugar becomes.
  5. Damon’s exploration shows that most of the research published about how sugar affects our bodies is funded by the sugar industry itself. Hmmmm. Coca-cola pays for sugar research. Something is majorly wrong with this: reminder that just because something appears in print doesn’t mean it’s not misleading.
  6. All calories are not created equal. Damon does not increase his caloric intake at all. I was shocked by this! The moral of his story is that healthy fats are great for you and your body’s function and sugar is basically a killer. Watch the part about what sugar does to your hormone release of insulin and how that converts directly to fat. It’s also highly addictive (equated to cocaine or nicotine). Your brain experiences highs and lows when it spikes with sugar. The low causes the hormone adrenaline to run, which begs for another high, and the cycle goes on. All of this up and down can cause mental distress, anxiety, and even panic attacks.
  7. Soda / Soft Drinks / Pop – OHMYGOODESS. We don’t drink many soft drinks at our house, but if you do, check out the portion about the sugar intake from soda drinkers. There is the heart-breaking story about Eastern Kentucky residents who experience startlingly high rates of dental infection, rotten teeth, and teeth loss … all due to Mountain Dew which was highly advertised in their area many years ago. It’s really insane and really sad.
  8. All sugar does the same thing to your body: brown sugar, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup. It’s all the same. I don’t think I really knew this.

What This Means for My Family

As I mentioned, we are a pretty healthy family. We make our kids eat dinner before they can have a snack or dessert. We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. We try to encourage protein and limit fried foods. We don’t stop for fast food very often. However, I do stock a pantry full of “kid food” for school snacks and lunches. With four kids, we can go through a stash of variety chip bags, Oreo cookies, fruit roll ups, and sugary cereals in NO time! Part of it is convenience, part of it is access, part of it is just that kids move a lot and are always starving! After watching That Sugar Film, it made me pause and wonder just how much sugar we’re putting into our bodies. I honestly don’t even know, but I think maybe we’ll take a closer look at what we’re each consuming.

What this Means for School Children and Working Adults

I’m not a scientist or a nutritionist, but I did pay close attention to the part about brain fog and lethargy after consuming too much sugar (which often comes in the form of breads, pastas, and other carbohydrates). We all know that feeling after a big lunch and the struggle to stay awake all afternoon at work! This leads me to our children who also experience sugar highs and lows during the day and are definitely affected by the sugar they consume throughout the day. It’s hard enough for kids to stay alert and well-behaved in a classroom all day. And it’s doubly hard for teachers to deliver their instruction, adhere to the requirements put on them, and manage a bunch of sugared-up school children. What if we all modified what’s in the snack bag and gave everyone a better chance of success in their day?

Trying a low-sugar lifestyle

If you’re interested in trying a lower sugar lifestyle, you may need a few places to start. I’m going to do a bit more label reading and see if I can try out some of these recipes at home.

  1. Low Sugar Dinner Recipes For Families
  2. 30 Day No Sugar Family Challenge
  3. 30 Days of No Sugar Added Recipes
  4. 20 No Added Sugar Snacks for Kids
  5. 50 Low Sugar Snacks for Kids
Rachel Harris Ledet
A New Orleans native and entrepreneurial mom, Rachel maintains a daily balance of running her own marketing firm, 30|90 Marketing, managing her kids’ schedules, and maintaining an active extracurricular life including teaching dance, volunteering, and instructing a digital marketing class at UNO. Rachel lives in Mandeville with her best friend and husband Lenny, daughters Addison and Amelia, stepson Luke, and new baby Tucker. With a growing family and a million balls in the air, Rachel keeps things light by continuously learning, spending time with amazing friends, blogging, finding any route to a concert or outdoor festival, and planning her next getaway with her husband. A sense of humor can get you through almost anything, so she tends to surround herself with fabulous and very funny people.

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