Irish children consuming 250pc of recommended daily maximum of sugar

Sweet-toothed children in Ireland are consuming two-and-a-half times more sugar every day than they should, a new report has warned.

Ireland is among several European countries where youngsters are eating or drinking more than the recommended maximum intake of “free” sugars.

They are added to food or drinks and include those found in biscuits, chocolate, flavoured yoghurts, breakfast cereals and fizzy drinks.

They also include sugars in honey and syrups such as maple, agave and golden; unsweetened fruit juices, vegetable juices and smoothies.

Sugar found naturally in milk, whole fruit and whole vegetables does not count.

Up to 12.4pc of the daily calorie consumption of an average child in Ireland is made up of sugar, much higher than the 5pc limit.

Consumption rates of added sugars by children also reveal they are too high in the UK and France and three times over the limit in Holland.

The figures were presented by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.

Food containing free sugars often have very little or no nutritional benefit and can contribute to weight gain and tooth decay.

At least one-in-five children is overweight or obese.

The group pointed out that due to the body’s ability to generate energy from carbohydrates such as those found in vegetables, rice and pasta, there is no need for humans to consume added free sugars.

New guidance states there is no dietary requirement for free sugar intake in children and adolescents at all, but if consumed, should be limited to less than 5pc of recommended energy intake.

In practice, this means the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar for children as young as two to four and nine teaspoons for adolescents aged 15-19.

The report highlights how excess sugar intake is related to increased risk of dental cavities, cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes and, perhaps most worryingly, is associated with a significantly higher risk of obesity.

If no changes are made, more than 80 million children under five risk being obese worldwide by 2025.

“An alarming one-in-three children between six to nine years are either overweight or obese in 46 European countries and Europe has a higher prevalence of children that are overweight than any other region in the world,” it says.

It calls for clarity around the globally used definition of sugar on labelling and in public education campaigns, as well as a greater effort by governments to inform parents about the risk of excessive sugar intake and how to avoid it.

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