We’re always being told that children are eating too much sugar, but why is this a bad thing and can sugar affect my child’s learning?

A quick glance at any newspaper will scare you into thinking that children are addicted to sweet treats and that childhood obesity is spiralling out of control.

There is some truth in this – the amount of sugar children have each day is very much above the recommended limits (more than double, in fact) but the good news is that this has slightly declined in recent years.

This is partly because children are drinking less sugary drinks than they used to.

But they are still eating and drinking around 2,800 extra sugar cubes every year, which is equal to 562 bars of chocolate or 412 cans of fizzy pop!


There’s no proof that sugar itself can affect your child’s ability to learn, but too much sugar does make them more likely to become overweight or obese – this affects one in five children when they start primary school and creeps up to one in three by the time they are ready for secondary school.

They may not even look overweight to you or me, but dangerous fat can often build up inside their bodies.

It’s easy to think that this is just ‘puppy fat’ but studies have shown that there is no such thing and that many overweight children will become overweight, or even obese, adults.

So why is this bad for their education? Unfortunately, overweight children are often less confident and more likely to be bullied – this could be harmful to their development.


Painful tooth decay

What’s more, too much sugar means that every ten minutes a child has to go to hospital to have a rotten tooth removed under general anaesthetic.

Shockingly, it’s the number one reason for a child between the ages of 5 and 9 needing hospital treatment – and it’s totally preventable!

Sadly, this also means at least 60,000 days off school are taken each year, meaning children are missing out on important learning time. The pain from tooth decay is also likely to keep them awake at night, which may affect their concentration during school hours.

Swap when you next shop

It’s difficult for parents to watch everything children are eating and drinking but making some simple swaps can really help them to cut back on sugar.

Try to get into the habit of looking at the ‘traffic light’ labelling on the front of their favourite snacks. If it shows any reds, it should only be eaten every now and again. Stick to the ambers and greens when you can and try swapping their favourite foods for a less sugary version – I bet they won’t even notice!

Can sugar affect my child's learning?

Find out more via the NHS

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