Children cutting out sugar ‘suffer like drug addicts’

Kat Lay

Health correspondent

The Times

Gerry Gajadharsingh writes: The important conclusion from this research is that “High sugar intake activates similar neural circuitry and reward systems as substances of abuse. Adolescence is a particularly susceptible period for addiction, when still- developing brains are highly sensitive to substances and when risk-taking is more likely”.

 All change is difficult and reducing sugar does cause short term discomfort in many patients, both children and adults, because the majority of westerners consume too much sugar. However, the medium and long-term benefits surely outweigh the few days that people will feel unwell, especially if they understand that the symptoms are related to withdrawal of the stimulant that is sugar.

 The key is to choose products that don’t have a high glycaemic (sugar) load and to know the sugar load of the food and drinks that we consume. For example, drinking a 250ml bottle of fresh fruit juice with “no added sugar” will often contain 14tsp of sugar derived from the breakdown of the fruit.

 There are many other things that can boost our energy not just sugar!

 Perhaps I’ll do some work to see if we can come up with an energy drink that is NOT so laden with sugar (or indeed artificial sweeteners, which research says may be just as bad for people for a variety of reasons).

Teenagers get withdrawal symptoms when they are deprived of sugary drinks for three days, a study has found.

Researchers from the University of California found that a group of teenagers who switched to milk and water reported headaches, less motivation to work, cravings for sugary drinks and lower overall wellbeing.

There were 25 participants aged 13 to 19 in the study, published in the journal Appetite. All were overweight or obese and normally had at least three sugar-sweetened drinks a day, before going “cold turkey” for three days.

Jennifer Falbe, the lead author, said: “An abundance of research points to sugary drinks as contributing to a number of chronic diseases. Our findings — that these drinks may have addictive properties — make their ubiquitous availability and advertising to youth even more concerning for public health.”

The youngsters kept drinks diaries and submitted saliva samples to test for caffeine intake. Most were not big caffeine consumers before the study began and the researchers said that this reduced the likelihood that they were just suffering from caffeine withdrawal.

They said: “High sugar intake activates similar neural circuitry and reward systems as substances of abuse. Adolescence is a particularly susceptible period for addiction, when still- developing brains are highly sensitive to substances and when risk-taking is more likely.”

However, they acknowledged that their results would need to be replicated in a larger sample and that many findings were y “borderline significant”.

The researchers concluded: “These results, combined with present and future corroborating evidence, could inform clinical practice around helping adolescents reduce sugar-sweetened beverage intake, have important implications for messaging in public-health campaigns and inform the need for efforts to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage advertising to youth and those drinks’ availability in and around schools.”

MPs on the science and technology committee have concluded that there is not enough evidence to support a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children. However, they said that “societal concerns” might justify such a move.

Their inquiry was started in response to research showing that young people in the UK were the biggest consumers of energy drinks in Europe for their age group. Norman Lamb, chairman of the committee, said: “Throughout this inquiry the committee has heard a range of concerns warning of the impact energy drinks can have on the behaviour of young people.

“This varied from a lack of concentration in the classroom and hyperactivity to the effects on physical health. It’s clear from evidence we received that disadvantaged children are consuming energy drinks at a higher rate than their peers.

“Although the committee feels there is not enough scientific evidence alone to support a blanket ban, we support voluntary bans by retailers — many of whom have recognised the negative impact associated with such products.”

He said that it was unclear whether energy drinks were more harmful than other soft drinks.

Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, said the study was very small and that nine of the 25 participants did not fully comply with instructions.

He added: “It is well established that consumption of sugary drinks is habit- forming but not addictive in the classical definition. It certainly does not warrant claims that sugar is addictive on a par with heroin or cocaine.”

Andreas Kadi, secretary-general of Energy Drinks Europe, which represents the industry, said: “Portion control, of all foods and beverages, is the most efficient way of reducing obesity in all ages.”

2018-12-17T11:42:59+00:00