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Australian Children Are Overdosing on Sugar

Update Date: Oct 20, 2012 10:35 AM EDT

A new study suggests that more than half of the children in Australia are consuming too much sugar.

The study from researchers at the University of Wollongong and University of Sydney found intake of "added" sugar increased as children got older, and on an average, boys between the ages of 14-16 consume up to 22 teaspoons every day.

"While other reports suggest that total sugar consumption in Australian children may have declined slightly in recent times, this new work suggests that added sugar intake remains high," said Timothy Gill, research author and principal research fellow in the Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise at the University of Sydney.

"Research in this area is hindered in Australia because our food composition datasets do not currently distinguish between total and added sugars," Dr Gill said.

"This project was set up to help separate added from naturally occurring sugars in food products consumed in Australia."

According to World Health Organization recommendations, children so not receive more than 10% of their energy from added sugars, but the current study has found that boys in the teen years derive up to 13% of their sugar intake from added sugars.

Research author Jimmy Louie, from the University of Wollongong said, that it is important to distinguish between total and added sugars, because experts are trying to reduce energy intake to control weight and develop labeling in order to be able to better guide consumer choice.

"Products such as milk, fruit and certain cereals are high in natural sugars, as well as good sources of key nutrients, as opposed to most foods high in added sugars," Dr Louie said.

Health experts are now keen on investigating the direct contribution from sugary drinks.

"It would be especially interesting to see what proportion of 'added sugars' came from liquids such as soft drinks, and what came from foods, as there is evidence that sugars consumed as part of watery liquids do not contribute to satiety and are simply added on to what would normally be consumed," said Kerin O'Dea, professor of population health and nutrition at the University of South Australia.

"Clearly sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials are still a problem and need to be dramatically reduced as they have no other nutrients - just unwanted calories," said Peter Clifton, laboratory head of nutritional interventions at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and affiliate professor at the University of Adelaide.

"Nevertheless, focusing just on sugar is misplaced as for many children pizzas, pies, white bread and fast food are more of a problem than sugar, so the whole diet needs attention."

The research was presented at the annual congress of the Australia and New Zealand Obesity Society.

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