They say breakfast is the most important part of the day, it fires up our metabolism and gives us the fuel, energy and stamina to begin our daily tasks and tackle them head on.
So what kind of head-start are we getting with a bowl full of sugar?
According to research from Public Health England (PHE), children in England consume half their recommended daily intake of sugar at breakfast. By the end of the day, the same research showed that these children, have consumed more than three times the ‘healthy’ limit.
The study found that on average children were consuming the equivalent of three cubes, around 11g, of sugar before leaving the house. This sugar intake usually gets bumped up to three times the recommended intake by the end of the day.
Research also showed that eight out of 10 parents believed they were giving their child the healthiest option.
To help combat this, PHE is launching a campaign that will aim to uncover vital dietary information on packaging, using a scanning system. The app will allow consumers to scan the barcode of their grocery items, and immediately find the sugar, saturated fat and salt content of that product.
“Children have far too much sugar, and a lot of it is before their first lesson of the day,” said Alison Tedstone, PHE’s chief nutritionist. “It’s crucial for children to have a healthy breakfast, but we know the mornings in a busy household can be fraught. That’s why we’ve developed our Be Food Smart app, taking some of the pressure off parents and helping them to choose healthier food and drink options for their children.”
And they’re not just talking about the obvious culprits – Lucky Charms, Coco Pops, Frosted Flakes and the like, most “wholegrain” ‘healthy looking’ store-bought cereals are packed full of sugar. For a full list of sugar content of your favourite cereals, click here.
According to paediatric endocrinologist, Robert Lustig, sugar is the equivalent of ‘alcohol of the child’:
“Dietary sugar is composed of two molecules: glucose and fructose. Fructose, while an energy source (4kcal/g), is otherwise vestigial to humans; again, there is no biochemical reaction that requires it. But fructose is metabolised in the liver in exactly the same way as alcohol. And that’s why, when consumed chronically and at a high dose, fructose is similarly toxic and abused, unrelated to its calories or effects on weight.”
“On average, cereal contains a whopping 12g of sugar, all added, in a typical serving. In the US, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2011 identified 17 breakfast cereals marketed to children in which added sugar constituted more than 50% of calories, and 177 with 40% or more. Despite the notoriety of that disclosure, the EWG follow-up study in 2014 noted that not one of these breakfast cereals on the top 10 worst list had reduced its sugar content.”
At the moment, guidelines recommend a maximum daily intake of sugar to be kept to under four cubes of sugar for four to six-year-olds, and five for seven to ten-year-olds. Alarmingly, the study of 1,000 people, found that children under the age of 10 consumed an average of three times this amount.
The Obesity Health Alliance, who welcomed the research said that it is now more important than ever for governments to address this issue head on by adopting robust and productive obesity strategies.
“The healthy choice isn’t always the easy choice, so it’s important that we have measures like the soft drinks industry levy and the sugar, salt and fat reduction programme to help create a healthier environment overall,” it said.