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MCHENRY, Ill. (AP) — For one year, 17-year-old Kayla Janz cut added sugars from her diet and saw significant health improvements.
This meant eliminating her favorite treat - Frappuccinos, only having a sample size bite of ice cream on her birthday and eating mostly meat and vegetables, Janz said.
"(Sugar) is in so many foods that you would never wrap your head around it being in," Janz said. ". So my diet drastically changed."
Janz's health changed, too. She had less complex migraine spells, had more energy, less acne, softer skin and wasn't as hungry in between meals, she said.
A recent study from the research journal Obesity substituted sugar in the diets of Latino and African-American children with obesity and metabolic syndrome.
The study found that when fructose was taken out of the participants' diets and replaced with food that contained the same amount of calories, there were improvements to the participants' health.
"The health detriments of sugar, and fructose specifically, are independent of its caloric value or effects on weight," the study concluded.
Janz was never overweight, and she said her weight stayed pretty consistent throughout her year without sugar. The biggest health change she noticed was the constant energy she had.
Janz started her year without sugar in August 2014, and she used her experience for an Advanced Placement language and composition class project at McHenry East High School, where she is a senior.
After her sugar-free diet and research project, Janz said she learned people don't need sugar in their diets.
"It really showed me that it's kind of not good how we have so many foods that really are not healthy for us. And (food) doesn't need sugar in it," Janz said. "The whole reason we think we need something sweet is because it taste better to us."
She's back to eating added sugar now, but said she's considering cutting it from her diet again.
In a fast-paced world, people tend to reach for food that's convenient to eat, said Anne Borris, outpatient registered dietitian with Centegra Health System.
"We've been leaning more toward convenience foods, something that's easy and fast," Borris said. "That's why processed foods have become more popular."
Borris said natural sugar, which is found in things such as fruit and dairy products, does not have adverse health effects.
It's the added sugars, including sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, that can cause health problems, Borris said, and they generally are found in processed foods.
"So it's not necessarily taking all sugars out of the diet, but just seeing where we can eat whole foods," Borris said.
Borris also runs the Centegra Kids in Motion program, which works with children who are 7 to 12 years old - most of whom are overweight - and their parents to teach them how to be active and eat healthy.
Borris said she's seen children who have cut sugar and lost weight, which lowered their risk for diabetes.
Although sugar can cause weight gain, it affects all organs, Borris said, which could be why cutting it helped reduce Janz's complex migraine spells.
It may be impossible to cut all added sugars from children's diets, Borris said, but by reducing added sugar, people will see benefits to their health.
She said some tips for encouraging children to eat less added sugar is by reducing the amount of sugary cereal they eat and helping them understand that healthier snacks will help them grow, concentrate and be more active.
Source: The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald, http://bit.ly/1NGuToO
Information from: The Northwest Herald, http://www.nwherald.com
This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald.
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