Cincinnati Family Magazine

Your # 1 Hometown Family Resource

February 25, 2024

Sugar and the Heart

Sugar consumption can affect a child's heart. But how to curtail the habit ... especially with Halloween just weeks away?

The American Heart Association recently released a statement detailing new guidelines for sugar consumption in ages 2 – 18 and cautioned parents about sugar’s effect on their children’s hearts.

“This 2016 statement expands on the previous statements, taking a closer look at the current evidence on the cardiovascular effects of added sugars, specifically in children and adolescents from ages 2 – 19 years old,” says Megan Horsley, a Registered Dietitian with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “The results showed U.S. children consumed 16% of their total energy intake as added sugars. The top contributors to added sugars are soda, fruit-flavored and sports drinks and cakes and cookies.” She explains that there is already evidence that a high intake of added sugars is linked to an increased risk for obesity. But evidence also suggests that high intake of added sugars affected overall cardiovascular risk factors like elevated blood pressure.

The AHA has recommended that children ages 2 – 18 consume no more than 25 grams of sugar a day, or about six teaspoons, and ages younger than 2 shouldn’t consume food or drinks with added sugars at all.

Keep in mind that this is added sugars. “Naturally-containing sugars are those sugars that come naturally in foods,” says Horsley. “For example, like the fructose in an apple or lactose from a glass of milk.” Added sugars are added during a food’s processing (or at your dining table).

Horsley points out that there are a lot of names for added sugars, like corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, honey, syrup and sugar molecules ending in “ose” (i.e., dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose). “There are many different names for sugar so you have to really look at the ingredient list to tell if a processed food contains added sugars,” she says.

How to curtail the sugar habit? “We, as adults, need to role model healthful behavior with everything we do, not just eating and drinking. When we are able to start our children off on the right path, the likelihood of adherence is much greater,” says Horsley. She suggests that parents pick one small change each week to work on — for example, cutting your child’s two-cans-a-day soda habit down to one-can-a-day — and progressing from there. Cooking more meals at home and getting kids involved in the planning and prep can initiate conversations about food and nutrition. She also suggests parents go to to learn more about what the AHA has to say. “There is always more power in knowledge.”

Candy Buy Backs

Halloween is almost here, and with it means buckets candy — probably more than you need, right? Pick some favorites to keep, then check out to find local dentists that are “buying” Halloween candy from kids to send to the troops overseas, or visit one of these dentists:

Cassinelli & Shanker Orthodontics
7242 Tylers Corner Drive, West Chester • 513-342-8395
9505 Montgomery Road, Montgomery • 513-549-6982
11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Nov. 2, 8:45 a.m. – 5 p.m. Nov. 3 (in West Chester)
8:45 a.m. – 5 p.m. Nov. 3 (in Montgomery)

Montgomery Pediatric Dentistry
9505 Montgomery Road • 513-891-0660
7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Nov. 1, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Nov. 4, and 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Nov. 5.

Sea of Smiles Pediatric Dentistry
1319 Nagel Road
8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Nov. 2 – 3

5236 Cedar Village Drive, Mason • 513-229-3100
Donate candy for a free water bottle and for every pound donated, earn a raffle ticket for a $100 gift card.

About the Author