Study: Added sugars in diet can decrease your child’s cognitive scores

Before diving into a recent study from The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, a few facts:

This was a prospective study. That means a group of people are observed for a stated period of time, and behaviors such as food intake are assessed. Then outcomes are measured. This is often the type of research used in nutrition. A clinical trial is an experiment where a group of people are given a drug, procedure or something food related, and again, outcomes are measured. In clinical trials a control group is used to determine if the outcome is statistically better then no treatment.

With a clinical trial, it can be stated that a new drug or procedure caused the outcome. In a prospective study, we can only say there was a correlation between the food or diet, not causation. It is difficult and expensive to do a multi-year clinical trial on food intake. The study I’m reporting looked at sugar intake over three years.

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This study consisted of 1,234 mother child pairs. Maternal sugar, beverage and fruit intake during pregnancy was assessed. Mothers reported on their child’s food intake at early childhood visits. Cognitive testing was performed on the children.

The children of mothers consuming the most sugar or sugar substitutes during pregnancy had children with lowered cognitive scores. Early childhood consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages was also associated with decreased performance on cognitive tests. This study found no association between childhood diet soda consumption and test scores. Fruit consumption was associated with higher cognitive function scores in early and mid childhood. Most of the sugar in these analyzed diets was from sugar-sweetened beverages.

The Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 10 percent of calories from added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends women and children have no more than 100 calories a day from sugar. One soda puts most people over the limit. Stay smart with occasional soda and daily fruit.

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