Expert Delivers Sugar Warning: ‘Sugar Is The Alcohol Of The Child’

We all know the affects that alcohol can have on our bodies, our brains and our livers. But can sugar really be just as harmful as alcohol? An expert’s sugar warning suggests so!

sugar warning children

Robert Lustig, Paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, recently explained just how eerily similar sugar and alcohol are and why it’s so hard for parents to protect their kids from this addictive rush of fructose.

Sugar Warning – the Scary Similarities Between Sugar and Alcohol

Both contain kilojoules but very little nutrition – Alcohol is loaded with kilojoules but without any nutritional value. Sugar is much the same – made up of two molecules (glucose and fructose), it comes with no nutritional value and there is no biochemical reaction in our bodies that require it.

Both are toxic to the bodies (in high doses) – You know that drinking excessively is going to lead to serious health concerns, but consuming high doses of sugar can do the same.

“Dietary sugar fries your kid’s liver and brain; just like alcohol.” Lustig explains.

Both are metabolised by the liver –And, like alcohol, sugar causes similar conditions including type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Both are addictive – The ‘high’ or ‘rush’ that sugar gives your body is just as addictive as the effects of alcohol.

Both can change your behaviour – While not conclusive, many studies confirm that sugar is linked to behavioural problems in children. And alcohol? Anyone who has had more than a couple of drinks knows how it can turn you into a different person.

The main differences?

Most common FAQ's about sugar answered

Alcohol is monitored. Alcohol is taxed. Alcohol comes with warning labels. And alcohol is prohibited to children.

Shouldn’t sugars follow the same guidelines? Shouldn’t there be sugar warning signs on all foods with high amounts? Shouldn’t children be banned from buying lollies?

Many believe so, including Lustig.

Children consume most sugars in the morning

What’s even scarier is that the National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that children are consuming half of their daily intake of sugar for breakfast.

Breakfast cereals (even the seemingly healthy ones) are often loaded with the sweet stuff. Check out the breakfast cereals that are the top offenders right here.

Cropped shot of a young boy pouring his breakfast into a bowl at home

The average child consumes a “whooping 12 grams of sugar” just with their breakfast cereal choice. Nutri-Grain, for example, comes with 32 grams per serving and Cocoa Puffs, 35 grams.

A Sugar By Any Other Name Tastes Just as Sweet

But sugar isn’t just hidden in cereals. Many of our favourite lunch box snacks are loaded with the stuff.

“There are 56 different names for sugar,” Lustig explains. This alone makes it nearly impossible for parents to make smart decisions.

 “By choosing different sugars as the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth ingredients, sugar can rapidly add up to be the dominant ingredient.”

How can you combat against the rise of sugar when it’s hidden so well? Read the labels. Know the main culprits. And choose fresh, non-packaged products as much as possible.


Have a look at our Healthy Kids Cookbook for some fresh meals and easy-to-prepare snacks that are free of excessive sugar.

written by:

Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna traded in the cold mountain air for the laid back lifestyle of Australia nine years ago. She is now a mum to one son, one daughter, one dog and one cat, all of whom live with her and her partner in Cairns, QLD. When not writing about the ups and downs of parenting, she is usually outside doing some form of physical activity or indulging in a glass of antioxidant-infused fruit drink. Okay, it's wine.