Most Babies Eat Too Much Added Sugar, Study Warns

Infants and toddlers get a lot of sugar from baby snacks and fruit juice and a new study warns that maybe they are getting too much sugar.  In fact, the study advises that nearly two-thirds of babies—and approximately 98 percent of toddlers—eat foods which contain added sugars every single day.  

For this study, researchers analyzed the data of 1,211 children between the ages of 6 and 23 months contained within the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey period lasted from 2011 to 2016 and observed a database of foods eaten in the United States to help categorize the products discussed in the survey. 

The study found that children aged between 6 and 11 months consumed most of their added sugar in the form of baby snacks, sweet bakery products, yogurt, and dairy drinks and fruit juices.  Among children between 12 and 23 months, fruit drinks were the most readily and widely consumed product with added sugar; though it was closely followed by candy, yogurt, sweet bakery products, and flavored beverages. 

Lead investigator Kirsten Herrick comments, “The consumption of added sugars among children has been associated with negative health conditions such as  cavities, asthma, obesity, elevated blood pressure, and altered lipid profiles.

The National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Control and Population Studies program director goes on to say, “Whether these associations exist for even younger children hasn’t been studied.  The aim of this study was to focus on one aspect of diet—added sugars [and] consumption among US infants and toddlers—that could inform the dietary guidelines.”

Herrick notes that added sugar consumption remained constant across sex, family income level, or head of household education.  Accordingly, the average infant could consume upwards of a teaspoon of added sugar every day. Toddlers could consume up to 6 teaspoons in a day. 

But while some variables may not have provided much changes, Herrick attests that some differences in added sugar consumption did appear associated with race, and particularly Hispanic origin.  For example, she says, “non-Hispanic Asian toddlers consumed the fewest added sugars at around 3.7 teaspoons [per day]. Non-Hispanic Black toddlers consumed the most added sugars at about 8.2 teaspoons [per day].”

At the end of the day, Herrick comments that existing research shows that we develop eating patterns quite early and these patterns shape eating habits later in life. 

The results of this study have been published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.