Amanda is Healthy Food Guide's nutrition editor with a degree in nutrition and a post-grad diploma in dietetics. She is a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and The Guild of Food...

Eating sugary food in childhood can increase the risk of cardio-metabolic diseases, according to new research


There’s a temptation to think of problems with fats in the blood and poorer heart health as being something to do with older people, but new research reveals a more complicated picture.

Studies carried out by the University of Eastern Finland on over 500 six-to-eight year-olds reveals that, even in childhood, those who eat lots of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates were putting a strain on their livers, altering their blood fatty acid composition and beginning to increase their risk of cardio-metabolic diseases.

The good news is that replacing sugary foods with healthy wholegrains can lower levels of the more harmful fatty acid known as ‘oleic acid’, while frequent consumption of vegetable-based oils was associated with higher proportions of ‘good’ essential fatty acids in the blood.

Further findings

Researchers also discovered that frequent consumption of sweets in children was associated with a higher estimated activity of the enzyme known as delta-9-desaturase in their livers.

Elevated activity of this enzyme suggests that this organ is forming saturated fatty acids from sugars at a higher pace than normal, which again is harmful for lipid metabolism and overall health.

The take-home message from this study is that children’s diets matter from the get-go, and it’s never too early to lay down the foundations of healthy styles of eating, which children will then hopefully want to follow for life.

Read more: 10 low sugar breakfast cereals for children