US infants' sugar consumption exceeds adult recommendations

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Kirsten Herrick

Infants and toddlers are consuming large amounts of added sugar, with toddlers aged between 19 and 23 months consuming 7.1 tsp of sugar on any given day, according to research presented at Nutrition 2018.

This amount, according to a press release, is more added sugar than what can be found in a chocolate covered candy bar with nuts and exceeds the American Heart Association’s recommended 6 tsp limit of added sugar for adult women.

“This is the first time we have looked at added sugar consumption among children younger than 2 years old,” Kirsten Herrick, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist at the CDC, said in the release. “Our results show that added sugar consumption begins early in life and exceeds current recommendations. These data may be relevant to the upcoming 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

To estimate the amount of added sugar American children aged between 6 and 23 months consume, the Herrick and colleagues used data from the 2011-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In the survey, parents were asked to record every item their child consumed during a 24-hour period. Sugar consumption was measured in teaspoons, and the average consumption was categorized by age, sex, poverty index ratio (PIR), race and Hispanic origin.

Of the 806 infants and toddlers included in the study, 85% consumed added sugar on any day. Among infants aged 6 to 11 months, 61% consumed added sugar, and so did almost all toddlers aged between 12 and 18 months (98%) and 19 and 23 months (99%).

The researchers found that the mean added sugar consumption among infants and toddlers was 4.2 tsp on any given day. As children aged, they consumed significantly greater amounts of sugar (6-11 months: 0.9 tsp; 12-18 months: 5.5 tsp; 19-23 months: 7.1 tsp).

Out of all demographics considered in the study, children aged between 6 and 23 months who were non-Hispanic white consumed less added sugar on average (3.8 tsp), whereas non-Hispanic black children consumed 5.4 tsp of added sugar on average. This trend was observed among toddlers aged between 12 and 18 as well as 19 and 23 months; however, Herrick and colleagues noted that this trend was not apparent for infants aged between 6 and 11 months.

Herrick and colleagues did not observe significant differences in sugar consumption based on sex or the PIR of infants included in the study.

“The easiest way to reduce added sugars in your own diet and your kids’ diet is to choose foods that you know do not have them, like fresh fruits and vegetables,” Herrick said in the release. “Once kids start eating table food, they are often eating the same types of foods that [their parents] have in their diet, and other research has demonstrated that adults exceed recommendations for added sugar, too.” – by Katherine Bortz


Herrick K, et al. Consumption of added sugars among U.S. infants aged 6-23 months, 2011-2014. Presented at: Nutrition 2018; June 9-12; Boston.

Disclosures: Infectious Diseases in Children was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.

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