Today's Sweet

  • The Effects of Low Sugar



       Today’s children are surrounded by snacks full of sugar such as ice cream, juice, and candy. There are even various commercials and computer games promoting different types of sugary snacks. But how much sugar do children really need? According to Yale University, the recommended amount for sugar is 6 tablespoons a day. Over consumption may lead to obesity and diabetes.

       It is well accepted humans must have sugar to survive. It is the body’s preferred fuel.

       But how does a low sugar diet affect the human body? If the amount of sugar decreases in diet, should people expect same level of decrease in mood: being emotionally unstable, in energy: constantly feeling tired, and in physical strength: feeling weak and dizzy?

       Three 6th graders (two boys and one girl) conducted this research by lowering their daily sugar intake from their current amount to close to the recommended amount for 3 days. They measured and recorded their daily mood, energy and physical strength levels. The results were compared with those from previous days where the sugar intake was much higher. They concluded that mood, energy and strength were not directly correlated with the sugar level in diet. Significant decrease in sugar did not result in the same level decrease in testing measures. However, withdraw symptoms including fatigue and mood swings were observed due to short testing period. 


       Each of the three 6th graders first collected data from their regular daily diet, and researched in a library and online on the amount of sugar contained in each component of their diet.  They formed a table (see materials and methods) and designed their low sugar diet by carefully picking components which lead to daily intake of less that 6 tablespoons of sugar. 

       They followed this diet for 3 days.  The average daily intake of sugar is the independent variable.  At the end of each day, each person recorded their mood, strength, and energy throughout the day. These were used as dependent variables. 

       Snacks were not permitted throughout these three days. After the test subjects finished their low sugar diets, they went back to their normal diets.


       Chart I shows the percentage change in daily sugar intake in tablespoons.

     In order to get close to the recommended amount, significant level of sugar was cut from a regular diet, averaging 69.2%, ranging from 62.5% to 75%. One member had a higher daily intake than the other two. Even after the cut, he is still higher than the daily recommended level. Another member cut too much, her new daily intake level was significantly below the recommended level. The one with the largest percentage change is the one who consumed the least amount of sugar during the diet. The average amount of sugar consumed without the diet is 16.3 teaspoons per day, and the average amount with the diet is 5.2 teaspoons.

    Chart II shows the percent changes for each person’s moods, energy levels, and strength with and without the low sugar diet.

       The average mood without the diet is 9.8, and it ranged from 8 to 10. The mood with the diet test ranged from 3 to 7, and the average is 5.3. This is a 44.3% drop, ranging from -30% to -63%.

       The average energy level without the diet is 8.6, and it ranged from 8 to 9. The energy with the diet test ranged from 2 to 7, and the average was 4.6. This is an average 47% drop, ranging from -22% to -75%.

       The average strength level without the diet is 8.6, and it ranged from 8 to 9. The strength with the diet test ranged from 2 to 5, and the average is 3.6. This is an average 56.3% drop, ranging from -44% to -75%.


       Note from Chart I that the average decrease in sugar is 69.2, which is much more significant than the average decreases in mood (-44.3%), energy (-47%), and strength (-56.3%).

    The hypothesis was proved false. Test subjects did not experience the same level decrease in measurements.

       However, withdraw symptoms were observed that the test subjects experienced above normal fatigue, even with longer than usual sleeping hours, and some degrees of mood swings.  The testing window is a factor that impacted the results. If this research can be repeated, at least five days is needed to overcome the withdraw symptoms and improve accuracy of the results. Cutting sugar to below the recommended amount may also impacted the results.  Note that the member with sugar intake much lower than the recommended amount experienced the greatest decrease in measurements.

       Given that today’s children are surrounded by all types of sweets and the fact that the number of pediatric diabetes have greatly increased, it is important for children to recognize the recommended sugar amount each day. Decreasing the sugar level does not result in the same level decrease in mood, energy and physical strength. This research can be repeated with a longer testing window and should serve as a good foundation for future pediatric diabetes research.


       After a careful study of nutrition needed for 6th graders, low sugar diet was designed with the following components.  To maintain the close to 6 grams sugar intake, a balanced meal must be followed.  For example, if one egg was taken (0.6 grams of sugar), there would be 5.6 grams of sugar left to pick from other categories. If 1 cup of kidney beans was taken (4.1 grams), only less than 2 grams of sugar left for the day from other foods.

    Protein foods: meat (0 grams), one egg (0.6 grams), 1 cup of kidney beans (4.1 grams), 79 grams of tofu (0.4 grams), 1 cup of sunflower seeds (3.7 grams), one cup of pumpkin seeds (1.8 grams) and one cup of nuts (6 grams).

    Beverages: tea (0) and water (0 grams).

    Low-sugar dairy: low-fat or creamed cottage cheese (6 grams), part-skim mozzarella (0.3 grams), Swiss (0.4 grams), greek yogurt (6 grams), chocolate milk (14 grams), american cheese (0.6 grams), cheddar (0.1 grams), muenster (0.3 grams), colby (0.1 grams) and blue cheese (0.7 grams).

    Vegetables: Olives (0 grams), spinach (0 grams), collard greens, beet (9 grams), turnip (4.6 grams), asparagus (0.3 grams), lettuce (0.3 grams) and endives (0.1 grams).

    Grains: rice (0.1 grams), whole wheat bread (1.5 grams), barley (1.5 grams), flour (0.3 grams), bulgur (0.6 grams) and popcorn (0.3 grams).


    Patz, Aviva. "Is Sugar Really That Bad for You?" CNN. Cable News Network, 30 Oct. 2012. Web. 26 May 2016.

    "Frequently Asked Questions About Sugar." American Heart Association. N.p., 19 May 2014. Web. 26 May 2016.

    Copyright © Viv L and Kieran C