Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Study finds Irish 3-year-olds are consuming too much sugar

By Dental Tribune International
September 23, 2019

DUBLIN, Ireland: Free sugars (FS) are sugars added to food during its production, as well as the sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices. The term is used to distinguish between sugars that are naturally present in unrefined food such as fruit or brown rice and sugars that have been refined, typically by humans but sometimes by animals. In a recent study, researchers at the Dublin Dental University Hospital at Trinity College have found that a large majority of 3-year-olds in Ireland are consuming on average ten level teaspoons of FS a day.

As reported by Dental Tribune International, Irish children are not having their first dental visit early enough, and this new report indicates that there may be even more cause for concern.

“A large majority of 3-year-old Irish children do not meet the WHO [World Health Organization] recommended guidelines for free sugar intake and almost none meet the desired conditional recommendation,” said lead author of the study Dr Michael Crowe.

Using data from the National Pre-school Nutrition Survey and the Growing Up in Ireland: National Longitudinal Study of Children, the team calculated the mean daily total sugar and FS intakes and frequency, as well as consumption patterns from foods and meals in order to come to their conclusion. Their results showed that 75% of 3-year-olds had an FS intake greater than the maximum recommended by WHO guidelines. Only 4% met the lower threshold.

According to the results, some of the foods commonly consumed as snacks were chocolate, other confectionery, cakes and biscuits. Researchers say that these could be cut or replaced with healthier alternatives to reduce the frequency and amount of sugar consumed throughout the day. The team believes that the information gained from this study should be able to help dentists and dental hygienists to understand the specific food and drink patterns to focus on when carrying out dietary risk assessments.

The study, titled “Estimation and consumption pattern of free sugar intake in 3-year-old Irish preschool children”, was published online on 19 July 2019 in the European Journal of Nutrition, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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