Is it okay to give babies processed sugar?


Fact Box

  • Babycenter asserts that babies can start solid foods after four to six months, starting with pureed fruits and vegetables, and after a few more months pureed cheeses and oats or barley cereals. 
  • Between 2011 and 2016, a Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study found that 61% of infants and 98% of toddlers consumed added sugars in their daily diets, most being yogurts and fruit drinks.
  • Healthline reported that the World Health Organization said a majority of 8,000 baby foods reviewed provided 30 percent of their calories from sugars. 
  • The CDC lists a few foods to avoid giving babies, including honey, unpasteurized drinks or foods, foods with added sugars, food high in salt, fish high in mercury, and caffeinated drinks.

Elliot (No)

It's revealing that the sugar industry targets young people—specifically children—despite processed sugar being incredibly detrimental to this population segment (and, arguably, the health of all-aged people). Considering how a US advisory panel concluded in 2020 that 'no amount of sugar is okay for babies,' and seeing how much sugar regularly infiltrates the daily American diet, this issue becomes crisis level. Society must reshape how it thinks about allowing sugary foods to be given to babies and young children. Unlike the phrase, taking candy from a baby might not be so easy after all—especially with major companies marketing and producing baby foods filled with processed sugar. 

Evidence suggests that avoiding sugar before age two can help prevent disease in later life. If parents restrict this toxin during these crucial first months, they can save their children from a lifetime of chronic disease and other medical issues. And make no mistake—sugar is toxic. Scientists have been calling that out for years and are split over whether sugar should be officially classified as a poison. But various voices, such as Robert Lustig of the University of California, have been quoted in the Scientific American as calling sugar a 'toxin that harms our organs and disrupts the body's usual hormonal cycles.' 

Sugar can be addictive, with some finding sugary foods/drinks are just as bad as cigarettes. Therefore, parents should avoid giving their children sugar to the extent that they wouldn’t give them cigarettes or other drugs to indulge in. When there are so many safer alternatives to processed sugars, such as fruits with natural sugars and plant sweeteners that our bodies can easily absorb, there's no reason to keep sugar incorporated into the diets of the young and old alike. 

Chad (Yes)

Processed sugar is chemically almost identical to other forms of sugar. It is all a combination of glucose and fructose. Furthermore, studies have shown that both are processed similarly in our bodies. Sugar is not innately 'bad.' It is a significant energy source for all eukaryotic cells, from plants to fungi to animals. And everyone openly agrees that the overconsumption of sugar can lead to a wide range of harmful health effects, including obesity, diabetes, chronic inflammation, hypertension, and mood disorders. Babies can and will have sugar in moderation, especially seeing as it is pervasive in our food products.  

Today, processed sugar is found in most everything, especially the most affordable foods. To scold or tell parents that giving such foods to their children or babies assumes they have the means to choose otherwise. And unfortunately, in the current world economy, this is often not the case. Furthermore, such restrictions can make some family communities feel ostracized, guilty, or ashamed of their cultural dishes and options they routinely feed their growing young. Sometimes, this leads them to ignore other important health recommendations altogether. 

Instead of telling parents that some foods are okay or not okay, it's more important to allow them to feed their children what they have access to while educating families to make smarter food decisions, including limiting the intake of certain foods and adding in more healthy choices whenever possible. Instead of shaming parents for allowing processed sugar into their family’s diets, the message should switch to avoiding added sugar, a healthy and easy solution for parents to follow while not excluding a family’s ethnic or cultural food dishes or the many low-cost options available to households nationwide.

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