ar-olds, added sugars account for more than half of their discretionary calories (130 total discretionary calories are allowed for children of this age). For 4- to 13-year-olds, sodium intake is more than twice adequate levels (1200-1500 mg/day is allowed for children of this age). The children studied by Mennella and colleagues, two-thirds of whom were overweight or obese, also consumed twice adequate levels of sodium, and their added sugar intake averaged almost 20 teaspoons, or 300 calories, each day.
Guidelines from leading authorities, including the World Health Organization, American Heart Association, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Institute of Medicine, recommend significantly cutting sugar and salt intake for children, but this can be a daunting task. Commenting on the implications of her research, lead author Mennella noted, "The present findings reveal that the struggle parents have in modifying their children's diets to comply with recommendations appears to have a biological basis."
Understanding the basic biology that drives the desire for sweet and salty tastes in children illustrates their vulnerability to the current food environment. But on a positive note, Mennella observed, "it also paves the way toward developing more insightful and informed strategies for promoting healthy eating that meet the particular needs of growing children."
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