No need for more sugar

The obesity epidemic should be a wake-up call

The author is executive director of the nonprofit Healthy Lunch & Lifestyle Project Inc., which provides healthful lunches to nine schools in the Redding area and four in Chico and Forest Ranch.

Re “Reinventing the school lunch” (Newslines, by Christine G.K. LaPado, Nov. 18) and “Sugar isn’t always bad” (Letters, by Suzanne Rust, Nov. 24):

Though there is disagreement among leading research institutions as to whether the role of high-fructose corn syrup in the obesity epidemic is causal or corollary, there is no disagreement that excess weight and obesity are epidemics and that all Americans need to reduce their consumption of refined sugars, regardless of their source.

While the majority of children in America are more likely to be overweight, there are some who do require additional calories. However, no physician or other health-care professional would recommend that increased calories should come from refined sugars! The calcium, protein and other nutrients provided in chocolate milk do not make it a healthful beverage. This argument, extrapolated, would suggest that fried vegetables, candied fruits and doughnuts are all healthful choices simply because they contain vegetables, fruits and grains.

The American Heart Association says, “Preschoolers with a daily caloric intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories shouldn’t consume any more than 170 calories, or about 4 teaspoons, of added sugar a day. Children ages 4-8 with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 calories should consume no more than 130 calories, or about 3 teaspoons a day. (In order to accommodate all the nutritional requirements for this age group, there are fewer calories available for discretionary allowances like sugar.)”

One 8-ounce serving of chocolate milk contains 60-90 more calories (all from sugar) than 1 percent nonflavored milk. Chocolate milk contains as many sugar calories as an equivalent serving of soda! Many children consume two or more cartons of milk each day at school. If the only refined sugar they consumed all day came from chocolate milk, they would still exceed the recommended daily limit.

While properly portioned treats, including chocolate milk as a treat rather than a daily staple, are fine in moderation, significant changes are necessary to reverse the devastating and totally preventable diseases that are caused by excess weight and obesity. The health and well-being of our children depend on it.