Cutting Sugar Improves Kids’ Health, Even without Cutting Calories

New research suggests that cutting sugar improves kids' health, even if they don't cut calories or lose weight.

A study published in the journal Obesity found that cutting sugar – specifically fructose – rather than cutting total calories helped improve obese children’s health.

The small-scale study looked at 43 obese kids. Rather than putting them on a calorically-restricted diet, researchers had them reduce the amount of sugar in their diets and replace those calories with starch. The children, on average, were eating 28 percent of their calories from sugar and reduced that to 10 percent for this study.

Related: How much sugar is really in what you eat?

They tracked the children’s blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, blood glucose levels, and insulin resistance during the 10 day study and found that even the kids who didn’t lose weight had improved numbers. The health markers that they tracked in these kids are all symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome isn’t itself a disease. Rather, it’s a warning sign that you are more susceptible to lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Lead author Robert Lustig, MD, MSL, pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco said, “This study definitively shows that sugar is metabolically harmful not because of its calories or its effects on weight; rather sugar is metabolically harmful because it’s sugar.”

This isn’t the first study looking specifically at how fructose negatively impacts our health. A 2014 study found that too much sugar may actually be worse for your body than too much salt. “The evidence suggests that people whose dietary intake of added sugars adds up to at least a quarter of their total daily calories have almost triple the cardiovascular disease risk of those who consume less than 10%,” the researchers explain. “And a daily intake of more than 74 g of fructose is associated with a 30% greater risk of blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg and a 77% increased risk of blood pressure above 160/100 mm Hg.”

Cutting Back on Sugar for Your Health

There is no question that sugar is harmful to our health or that restricting sugar can protect both children and adults from disease. That information doesn’t make cutting back on the sugar in your diet much easier though. Any sweeping dietary changes take some work, and Andrea at our sister site Vibrant Wellness Journal wrote an excellent piece on how she cut her own sugar intake. She shares her personal experience giving the white stuff the boot. It’s definitely worth a read!

Like going vegan or eating more vegetables, cutting back on sugar takes time. If you stop eating sweets completely, you’re probably going to find it too hard. Instead, try cutting back gradually. Maybe have one cookie after supper instead of two, then drop down to just having that sweet treat on the weekends, for example.

Child eating sugar image via Shutterstock

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .