A Child's Sweet Obsession Can Lead to Sour Results

By Chuck Norris

September 2, 2016 7 min read

As I mentioned last week, according to a 2006 study, the typical kid in the United States will see, on average, 4,000 food-related advertisements per year. A whopping 98 percent of those ads are for food high in fat, sugar or sodium. As I further noted, in 2008, the Federal Trade Commission presented a report to Congress revealing that food and drink companies were spending $1.6 billion every year targeting children. Faced with troubling information they could no longer ignore, policymakers signed letters urging the manufacturers to self-regulate. By 2012, sensing the threat of Congressional intervention, food industry spending on child-focused ads dropped 20 percent. What is the percentage today, you might ask? There is no way of knowing, for such expenditures are no longer being measured by the Federal Trade Commission.

The above bears repeating this week, given equally eye-opening new data from the American Heart Association and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. According to the survey findings, kids ages 2 to 18 typically take in two to three times the amount of sugar recommended by guidelines recently provided by the American Heart Association. Research from the American Heart Association published August 22 in the journal Circulation, recommends that parents limit their child's "added sugar" daily consumption to six teaspoons — the equivalent of approximately 100 calories or 25 grams, and deems this goal to be "an important public health target."

This six-teaspoon recommendation may be difficult to follow, in that so many processed foods in the supermarket that kids have been conditioned to crave are also engineered to be high in sugar and low in fiber. Taking in too much added sugar from highly marketed sugary foods and drinks displaces healthier foods in the diet. This can result in weight gain, reduced HDL (known as "good" cholesterol) or worse.

This is the first time the American Heart Association has released its own set of recommendations for kids about added sugars. The new guidelines not only provides a comprehensive review of the current data, it reveals what the American Heart Association believes is a "profound" and "deeply disturbing" link between the amount of added sugars American children consume and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Nutritional experts see the American Heart Association goals as more achievable and understandable than the recent dietary guidelines released by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Still, many see the current sugar intake situation as nearly insurmountable. For example, current projections estimate that, without a serious public health intervention, 40 percent of Americans are expected to develop type 2 diabetes by 2050 largely based on a sugar cycle that is hard to break.

Yet there are encouraging signs that consumption patterns are changing for the better. As I recently reported, consumption of soda, the single leading source of added sugar in the American diet, is decreasing nationwide. A 2015 story published by The New York Times has called this decline "the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade."

Clearly, we aren't eating in the same way we did only a few years ago. Take beef for example. According to a 2015 report by Packaged Facts, a leading market research firm, consumption of red meat is at an historic low and is expected to stay there. Yet it doesn't mean we are necessarily eating less meat overall. In 2014, chicken consumption beat out beef for the first time in a century, and the poultry trend continues to have flown the coop with no sign of returning. After a decade of decline, Americans are eating more meat — again.

According to a report from the Dutch bank Rabobank, 2015 represented the largest increase in U.S. meat consumption since the food scares of the 1970s. By 2018, meat consumption is expected to rocket back up to the peak levels of the past.

As reported on takepart.com, the Packaged Facts survey also found that one in four consumers have switched to healthier meat and poultry products within the last year. More than half of consumers surveyed said they were willing to spend more for better-for-you meat and poultry products. They also said they are buying from alternative shopping venues, such as farmers markets, and are purchasing organic and natural meat and poultry products.

Meanwhile, Kathy Savoie, a home food preservation expert at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension is brewing her latest concoction. She starts by adding onions, ginger, vinegar, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, black pepper and salt. Later, at exactly the right moment, she drops in some calcium water, pectin and sugar for consistency. The result is what she calls "savory blueberry ginger conserve" — somewhat the antithesis of grandma's blueberry jam.

"It's a whole different taste experience," she tells NPR's Sujata Gupta.

It is also her latest offering in the world of "savory jams" a food trend that is experiencing a surge in popularity. In fact, according to Datassential, a market research company that studies menu trends, savory jams are today's fastest-growing condiment for sandwiches and burgers.

Savory jams have the extra benefit of allowing people to eat local fruits and vegetables year-round while greatly lowering the sugar levels found in traditional jams. It's the latest development in a sweet-savory frenzy championed by leading French chefs that began hitting our shores in the 1990s. Today avant-garde jams abound on store shelves. Maybe it's not too late to retrain a trend-conscious child's taste buds. Let's hope so.

Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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