Nestle adds sugar to baby food: What happens when infants eat sugar? Experts discuss 5 adverse effects | Health - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Nestle adds sugar to baby food: What happens when infants eat sugar? Experts discuss 5 adverse effects

By, New Delhi
Apr 19, 2024 04:26 PM IST

Experts say it's not safe to introduce sugar into a baby's diet as it can affect their health in a range of ways from increased risk of diabetes to tooth decay.

The Indian food regulator FSSAI (The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) has started an enquiry into Nestle India after release of a report by Swiss investigative organisation, Public Eye that stated the company adds sugar to its baby food products sold in low-income countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, but not in its main markets in Europe or the UK. An action might be taken against Nestle India if found at fault. (Also read | Nestle adds sugar to infant milk, cereal products sold in several countries including India, study claims)

As per World Health Organization guidelines, sugar is not recommended for infants. Added sugar can raise risk of long-term health issues in babies, making them susceptible to diabetes and other chronic diseases.(Freepik)
As per World Health Organization guidelines, sugar is not recommended for infants. Added sugar can raise risk of long-term health issues in babies, making them susceptible to diabetes and other chronic diseases.(Freepik)

Baby cereal brand Cerelac too as per reports has added sugars averaging nearly 3 grams per serving when sold in Indian market. As per World Health Organization guidelines, sugar is not recommended for infants. Added sugar can raise risk of long-term health issues in babies, making them susceptible to diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Now catch your favourite game on Crickit. Anytime Anywhere. Find out how

What happens when you give sugar to a newborn

"Sweetness might seem innocent, but when it comes to infant health, sugar isn't the sweetest deal. Sugar is not safe to introduce into babies’ diets, given it affects their systems in multiple ways – some of which are harmful to their long-term health prospects. For example, tooth decay often sets in early in babies who have been exposed to sugar, while overconsumption from an early age may cause them to put on excess weight quickly. In fact, research now shows that high-sugar intake in early life drives hunger and exaggerates appetite – also making them more likely to develop chronic diseases, such as diabetes, later on," says Dr. Sumaira Quazi, Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric sleep specialist, SPARSH Hospital, Bangalore.

"The consequences of babies being overfed sugar are far-reaching. For starters, they are highly predisposed to dislike bitter tastes, which may translate into a preference for sweet foods over the long run. Other taste heritages are also affected; this applies particularly to salt intake, which influences weight, and fat, which affects the heart health. Feeding babies with sugar, in other words, will only lead to increased craving for these foods. Also, excess sugar in diets displaces nutrients, so there is a risk that babies who consume it will be deprived of key vitamins and minerals needed for growth and development," adds Dr Quazi.

"Sugar in excessive amounts or inappropriately for newborn babies can have various side effects that may negatively impact their health and development," says Dr Amit P Ghawade, Consultant- Pediatrician and Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Kharghar, Mumbai.

Why added sugar is not required by infants

"Newborn babies primarily receive their nutrition from breast milk or infant formula in case of inadequate breast milk availability. These sources already contain an appropriate balance of sugars (lactose) along with essential fats, proteins, minerals and nutrients crucial for a baby's growth and development. Breast milk is naturally sweet due to lactose, which provides the necessary energy for the baby's growing body. Giving sugar beyond what is naturally present in breast milk or formula can be problematic," says Dr Tanushri Mukherjee, Consultant – Pediatrician and Neonatologist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Mumbai, Malad.

Adverse effects of excess sugar in infants

1. Weight gain

"High sugar intake can lead to rapid weight gain in newborns, increasing the risk of childhood obesity and associated health issues later in life. It can also disrupt the baby's natural appetite regulation, leading to poor feeding habits and a higher likelihood of overeating as they grow older," says Dr Ghawade.

2. Blood sugar issues

"Newborns are particularly susceptible to fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Adding excess sugar to their diet can initially cause a spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a rapid drop. This drop can lead to hypoglycaemia, a condition where blood sugar levels become dangerously low. Hypoglycaemia in newborns can result in symptoms such as jitteriness, poor feeding, lethargy, and even seizures in severe cases. Long term hypoglycaemia effects can be intellectual and developmental disabilities," says Dr Mukherjee.

3. Digestive distress

Dr Ghawade says added sugar in infant food can adversely affect a baby's digestive system, leading to gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhoea, bloating, and abdominal pain and it can also disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, potentially compromising the baby's immune system and overall gut health.

Dr Mukherjee shares other potential side effects of added sugar in baby food.

4. Impact on metabolism

Excessive sugar intake early in life can set unhealthy patterns for future dietary habits or hard-wiring. Babies given sugary solutions might develop a preference for overly sweet tastes, which can contribute to a higher risk of obesity and other metabolic issues later in life like type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

5. Dental health concerns

Sugar exposure at an early age, especially in liquid form, can increase the risk of dental cavities and decay. The sugars can feed bacteria in the mouth, leading to acid production and erosion of tooth enamel, even in very young infants.

6. Poor growth and development

Sweetened solutions do not provide adequate nutrition and as babies need other nutritional requirements to grow properly. This leads to abnormal growth and development.

7. Allergic reactions

Introducing sugary substances early on could also increase the risk of developing allergies or intolerances later in life. Sugar is not a necessary or recommended component of an infant's diet.

8. Behavioural effects

Excess sugar intake can impact a baby's behaviour and mood. Sugar can cause a temporary spike in energy with hyperactivity followed by a crash, leading to irritability, fussiness, or difficulty sleeping and difficulty in concentration.

9. Safe alternatives

It's crucial to address any concerns about a baby's feeding regimen with a paediatrician. Breastfeeding or using infant formula that meets the baby's nutritional needs is the recommended approach.

The administration of sugar or glucose solutions to newborn babies is typically reserved for specific medical situations or conditions where it becomes necessary to stabilize the baby's blood sugar levels. This may include treatment of hypoglycaemia, extreme low birth weight babies, management of neonatal abstinence syndrome, treatment of transient neonatal diabetes mellitus and post-surgery or critical care.

Get World Cup ready with Crick-it! From live scores to match stats, catch all the action here. Explore now!.

Catch your daily dose of Fashion, Taylor Swift, Health, Festivals, Travel, Relationship, Recipe and all the other Latest Lifestyle News on Hindustan Times Website and APPs.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, June 14, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On