Get Your Teens to Sour on Sugar

vendingmachineThis is a picture of the sugar-filled vending machine stationed steps away from my where I sit at Scholastic. There’s nothing extraordinary about it—except for the fact that it’s there in the first place. Given all we know about nutrition (and about what is egregiously non-nutritious) that fact that it remains is a testament to the unreasonable hold sweet snacks has over us. But it’s seemed even more sinister to me lately since I just finished reading an epic piece called Sugar Love: A Not So Sweet Story in the new issue of National Geographic. This story is a thinky, fascinating chronicle of our relationship with this sweet, addictive—and according to many leading scientists—highly toxic substance.

It begins with an 11-year-old in Clarksdale, Mississippi, trying to kick the sugar habit. Then takes us on a journey that began 10,000 years ago in New Guinea, where sugar was used as part of sacred rituals (now they use Coca-Cola—I’m not even kidding). The social history of sugar blew my mind: No, I did not know that in the 15th century there was a mosque built entirely of marzipan that was used for prayer and then was ultimately eaten by the poor. I also didn’t fully appreciate that centuries later, Europeans’ craving for sugar was one of the major causes of slavery. That the history is filled with humanity going to inhumane extremes to get their hands on sugar certainly gives extra credence to fact that it’s addictive. But most relevant to all of us right here, right now, with teens who ingest way too much—often without even realizing it—is this money quote:

[quote style="boxed"]Americans are fat because they eat too much and exercise too little. But they eat too much and exercise too little because they’re addicted to sugar, which not only makes them fatter but, after the initial sugar rush, also saps their energy, beaching them on the couch. “The reason you’re watching TV is not because TV is so good,” he [Richard Johnson, a nephrologist at the University of Colorado Denver,] said, “but because you have no energy to exercise, because you’re eating too much sugar.”[/quote]

I strongly urge you to share this piece with your teens. This page-turning, thrilling story filled with hard cold facts might make them start to see vending machines and candy counters differently. For some easy-to-digest facts, check out our piece Sugar Shocker, which gives a pretty graphic picture of the sweetness overload.  P.S. Some people in an effort to avoid sugar are staying away from fruit as well. No!!! This piece in the New York Times explains why the sugar in fruit is different and why you should keep eating an abundance of apples, berries, bananas, and melons—all that good stuff!