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Many parents do not know which foods and drinks contain how much sugar
Health experts say that an increasing number of overweight people are living in Germany. Many children and teenagers are too fat too. This is not particularly surprising when you consider that many children's snacks contain an extremely high amount of sugar. But even in supposedly healthy foods there is often a lot of the sweetener. Parents often misjudge the level of sugar in food.
High sugar consumption endangers health
Child obesity has increased significantly in recent years. The main reason for this is a much too high sugar consumption. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum of 50 grams of free sugar a day. On average, the Germans consume almost twice the amount. This also has to do with the hidden sugar in food. Parents who usually make the nutritional decisions for their offspring usually worry about how many sweets are allowed for children, but many of them underestimate the sugar content of conventional foods, as a recent study shows.
Incorrect assessment is associated with an increased risk of being overweight
A recent study published by the Max Planck Institute for Educational Research (MPIB) and the University of Mannheim in the international journal of obesity shows that most parents massively underestimate the sugar content of popular foods.
This underestimation is associated with twice the risk of overweight for the children.
To arrive at this result, Mattea Dallacker and Ralph Hertwig from the MPIB and Jutta Mata from the University of Mannheim examined how well parents can assess the sugar content of various foods and beverages.
They related the results to the children's body mass index (BMI). A total of 305 parent-child pairs took part in the study; the children were between six and twelve years old.
Sugar content of common foods
As the MPIB reports, the parents completed sugar estimation tasks on the computer, which showed them pictures of six common foods and drinks: orange juice, cola, pizza, yogurt, granola bars and ketchup.
The task was to estimate the sugar content of each food in sugar cubes. It was shown that 74 percent of the parents partially underestimated the sugar content of most foods and beverages.
In the case of yogurt, for example, 92 percent underestimated the sugar content - by an average of seven cubes. This corresponds to 60 percent of the total amount of sugar in fruit yoghurt.
“These results suggest that an easily accessible and practical knowledge of sugar content, for example through nutrition labeling, can improve parents' intuition about sugar. This could help reduce sugar intake in children and thus be a preventive measure against obesity, ”the study authors write.
Understandable labels could help
“Parents often suspect significantly less sugar in food than is actually contained. This is a potential risk factor for obesity in children, ”explained lead author Mattea Dallacker, research associate in the MPIB's Adaptive Rationality research area.
"The parents who underestimated the sugar content more often had overweight children."
Parents made a particularly large mistake with food and beverages that are generally considered healthy, such as yogurt or orange juice (84 percent). Only with granola bars and ketchup did more parents overestimate the actual sugar content.
"It is important that parents as nutrition decision-makers know about the sugar content of food and beverages," said Ralph Hertwig, director of the "Adaptive Rationality" research area at the Max Planck Institute for Educational Research.
"This is the only way they can regulate child's sugar consumption and offer a healthy diet," says the expert.
“Transparent and at first glance understandable labels could help parents to estimate the respective sugar content without much effort. This could happen, for example, with a traffic light system - which is certainly not yet perfect - or the keyhole seal known from Scandinavia, which identifies products with less fat, sugar and salt, ”said Hertwig. (ad)