"We call for a legislative effort to reduce the brain's perception of sweetness, to accustom the Spanish palate, especially children, to less sweet flavors, to require less sugar in their favorite foods."
Jesús Francisco Rodríguez Huertas, Professor of Physiology at the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (José Mataix Verdú of the UGR, took advantage of the presentation of the results of the study "Consumption of added sugar in Spanish children (7-12 years) and density of food nutrients that contribute to said consumption" to urge administrations to limit the sugars that can be added to food and, above all, to force the industry to detail on the label the amounts of added sugars that each contains product.
Because, as they have verified in this study, the daily consumption of added sugars by children is very high -55.7 grams per day, more than double the 25 grams/day recommended by the WHO- and is also on the rise, which which has a significant negative impact on the health of the Spanish child population, which presents worrying rates of overweight and obesity.
"We are doing something wrong if we know more and more about nutrition and we have more and more childhood obesity," admitted María Dolores Mesa-García, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Granada Biosanitary Research Institute, during the press conference. And part of the problem is that parents have an acceptable or good perception of certain foods with a low nutritional density and that provide a high content of added sugars per serving.
Among other reasons because, as Marta Palma Morales, another of the authors of the study, explained, "it is difficult to know how many added sugars a product contains because they do not appear on the label or in any database."
So the solution is, first of all, for all products to include their added sugar content on the label to offer a more realistic image of whether or not they are healthy. And second, by reformulating those foods to reduce the amount of sugar added to them.
"The industry must reformulate its products and this can be regulated from the Administration, as was already done with salt, which was gradually reduced in bread so that the palate of consumers gradually got used to less salty products. ", commented Rodríguez Huertas.
"If we accustom children from an early age to a lower sweet threshold, they will then be able to incorporate into their diet and enjoy foods with less added sugar," Mesa-García emphasized.
Because, defend these nutrition experts, "the hedonic part of food cannot be ignored, we cannot eliminate all those products that children like so much, so what it is about is that they eat less, that they do not consume them frequently and that the industry reformulates them so that the content of added sugars decreases and that of other nutrients increases".
But not everything is the task of the industry. It is also for families. "We tend to think that what is simple and what we make at home is healthy, but the homemade cake also has added sugar, which we put in; so we also have to reformulate our recipes and remove sugar and incorporate, for example, bananas or other fruits that provide sweetness but also other beneficial nutrients", Mesa-García has exemplified.
From the consumption habits detected by the UGR researchers, it can be deduced that only 35% of the added sugars consumed by children come from foods with a high nutritional density, that is, foods that, although they contain sugars, should not be removed from the diet. children because they also provide other important nutrients, such as dairy desserts, breakfast cereals or vegetable drinks.
The study -published in the journal Nutrients- shows that milk is the food most consumed by children and has a very high nutritional density because it provides proteins of high biological value, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin A, riboflavin and niacin, essential nutrients for their stage of development and growth.
On the other hand, there are other products that parents consider to be of normal nutritional quality that are not, such as energy drinks, chocolate bars, fruit nectars, cocoa powder or ice cream.
“The population must be made aware to reduce the consumption of all products that contain added sugars, primarily those with low nutritional quality; an occasional consumption (1-2 servings a week) of products with low nutritional quality could be maintained, as long as the added sugar content is low or moderate”, points out the director of the study. And he emphasizes that the consumption of products that provide significant amounts of sugar can be reduced by replacing them with similar ones without added sugar: "for example, natural yogurt instead of sweetened or flavored yogurt."
The study was carried out on a sample of 1,775 adults with children between the ages of 7 and 12, representative of the Spanish population.