Too much sugar, especially from soft drinks, may damage your child’s learning ability and memory.
That’s the finding from a study of the diets of more than 1000 pregnant women and their children. The study included assessments of the children’s cognitive skills at ages 3 and 7.
This research, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, suggests there may be learning benefits from reducing the sugar intake of women during pregnancy and limiting sugar consumption by their young children.
Key findings include:
- Consumption of sugar sweetened drinks by mothers was associated with poorer:
- childhood cognition including non-verbal abilities to solve novel problems
- verbal memory
- global intelligence - verbal knowledge and non-verbal skills
- Young children’s consumption of sugar sweetened drinks was associated with poorer verbal intelligence at mid-childhood.
Diet drinks not a good substitute
If you think having a Coke Zero, a diet Pepsi or fruit juice will avoid the problems associated with sugary drinks, think again. The study concluded that mothers’ diet drinks consumption was associated with poorer:
- fine motor, visual spatial, and visual motor abilities in early childhood, and
- verbal abilities in mid-childhood.
And fruit juice was not associated with improved cognition.
Eating whole fruit, not juice is beneficial
The study showed that children who consumed fruit (not fruit juice) in early childhood had higher cognitive scores in several areas and greater receptive vocabulary. It also found that eating fruit was associated with greater visual motor abilities in early childhood and verbal intelligence in mid-childhood.
Dangers of too much sugar widely publicised
Way back in 1972 the book, "Pure, White & Deadly - How Sugar is Killing Us and What We Can do to Stop It", caught the public's attention with its description of how dangerous sugar is to our health. Then after 4 decades in which our sugar consumption rocketed upwards, filmmaker Damon Gameau joined a chorus of commentators and scientists to once again try to alert us to the perils of too much sugar.
Gameau's film, That Sugar Film, documented the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body, If you haven't seen it, it's worth watching with your kids. The film is highly entertaining, as well as delivering it's very serious message.
So, in summary:
- don’t drink soft drinks, including diet sodas, or at least limit your intake of these, if you are pregnant
- avoid giving your young children soft drinks or fruit juice
- encourage your youngsters to eat whole fruit