Sugary Past: How Your Childhood Treats Impact Your Health Today

Ah, childhood – a time filled with cartoons, games, and lots of sugary treats. Unfortunately, those not-so-healthy choices we made as kids still impact our health today. And before you start blaming your parents, remember that societal norms were different back then. Smoking during pregnancy, doctors recommending formula over breastmilk, and the rise of processed, sugary junk food filled the 1970s and 80s. These choices continue to impact our health, including today’s obesity epidemic.

Obesity vs. sugar intake

The obesity epidemic got worse and worse – until recently. In Tennessee, obesity rates were highest in 2016 before beginning to decline the following year. Surprisingly, sugar intake has been declining since 2000. So, what is causing obesity rates to rise for so long? A new study suggests it’s the delayed effect of those childhood diets filled with sugar.

Researchers from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville compared obesity data between 1990 and 2004 with sugar intake data since the 1970s. They discovered peak sugar consumption happened in 1999 when the average American consumed about 60 pounds of high fructose corn syrup annually. Thankfully, sugar consumption started to decline in 2000, but obesity rates continued to climb.

Today’s obesity crisis and your childhood diet

Peak obesity occurred one generation after peak sugar consumption, suggesting that those childhood diets from decades ago could be impacting our obesity crisis today. Is it possible that today’s adults, many of whom were children during those sugar-filled years, still struggle with the effects of those diets? Damian Ruck, co-author of the study, believes so. “Our results suggest that dietary habits learned by children 30 or 40 years ago could explain the adult obesity crisis that emerged years later,” he said.

Steps towards a healthier future

So, if you struggle with obesity, it might have less to do with your current diet and more to do with your past. However, it’s never too late to take control and make changes now for a healthier future. That means cutting out sugary, processed foods, eating whole foods, staying physically active, and keeping tabs on your portion sizes.

Adopting healthy habits can seem daunting, but the more you do so, the healthier you’ll be – regardless of your weight. Remember, if your diet choices from decades ago are still impacting you today, your choices today may also affect your future. So, make the right ones, and continue on your journey towards a healthier life.