Candy There are few joys in life as sweet as seeing our children smile. Thus, it is with the best of intentions that we cave to pleas for candy and tantrums over French fries in hopes of glimpsing those (rapidly decaying) pearly whites. After all, there are bigger threats to our children, right?

As it turns out, sugar isn’t as harmless as we once thought, at least not in the volume we’re consuming it.

[header 3]A Natural Drive on Overdrive[/header]

Children have a natural penchant for sweets; it’s part of our survival programming. But in this hyper-processed, convenience-obsessed age, that natural drive is now on overdrive. With about one-third of children overweight or obese, childhood obesity has more thandoubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

The American Heart Association recommends that children consume 3 to 8 teaspoons of added sugar per day, depending on their age and daily caloric intake. Yet children as young as 1 year already consume three to four times the daily recommendation. By 4 to 8 years old, children are consuming an average of 21 teaspoons of sugar daily, and the average teenager consumes about 34 teaspoons each day — even more than the average adult.

Research has tied high sugar intake to a number of serious health problems, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and tooth decay. Once confined to adults, we’re now seeing the early signs of these conditions in young children. In the early 1990s, Type 2 diabetes accounted for 3 percent of new cases of diabetes in children; by 2004, that number rose to 45 percent.

Moreover, sugar may be addictive. Like cocaine and other drugs, sugar activates the reward system in the brain. Rats hooked on sugar show classic symptoms of addiction, including tolerance, withdrawal and cravings, and have been known to bypass cocaine in favor of their primary drug of choice: sugar.

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