Soft drinks, chocolate and cereals are pushing Aussie kids over recommended daily added sugar intakes, a preliminary study suggests.
The new research has shown almost 60 per cent of Australian children are getting more than 10 per cent of their daily energy requirements - calories - from added sugar.
The World Health Organisation recommends no more than 10 per cent of calories in kids' diets come from added sugar.
Dr Jimmy Louie, from the University of Wollongong, devised a way to analyse the latest national data available on children's diets, the 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, to determine the amount of added sugar children were consuming.
The reviewed figures showed added sugar intake increased as children got older, with teenage boys aged 14 to 16 consuming an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar daily.
Two to three-year-olds were getting around nine per cent of their total calories from added sugars but for those aged nine to 16 the figure was 13 per cent or higher.
Boys were consuming larger amounts of added sugar than girls, said Sydney University associate professor Timothy Gill, who supervised the research and will present it at the Australia and New Zealand Obesity Society meeting in Auckland on Friday.
"It's no surprise that sweetened beverages are the biggest contributor," Assoc Prof Gill told AAP.
Added sugar is sugar in processed food and drinks including sweetened beverages, cereals, confectionary, biscuits and cakes.
Unlike other countries such as the US and the UK, Australian food databases do not separate added sugars from total sugars - the naturally occurring sugar found in fruit, milk and grains.
Assoc Prof Gill said it was important to distinguish between total and added sugars in processed foods to help people, parents in particular, make healthier food choices.
"We need to find ways of reducing children's total calorie intake without compromising their nutrition," Assoc Prof Gill said.
"High sugar foods, particularly those that provide most of that sugar in the diet, are an appropriate target to reduce calories."
He said the research, which will be validated in future studies, has implications for food labelling.
"If a parent knew (a product) was high in added sugars, then they'd know that this isn't the fact it's got fruit, or milk or something else in it, it's because it's got added cane sugar," Assoc Prof Gill said.
Professor Peter Clifton from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute said any added sugar was unnecessary calories given the number of people who are are overweight and obese.
"Clearly, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials are still a problem and need to be dramatically reduced as they have no other nutrients, just unwanted calories."
However, he said children's whole diets including their fast food intake also needed attention.
Foods contributing most added sugar content to children's diet:
- Soft drinks and flavoured water (not cordial): 15%
- Chocolate/chocolate based confectionary: 7%
- Cordials: 7%
- Other confectionary: 7%
- Sugar sprinkled on food, honey, syrups: 6%
- Breakfast cereals and cereal bars: 6%
- Frozen milk products: 6%
- Biscuits: 5%
- Yoghurt: 4%
Source: Reanalysed data from the 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, Dr Jimmy Louie, University of Wollongong, NSW (preliminary figures).
Australian food databases do not separate added sugars from total sugars - the naturally occurring sugar found in fruit, milk and grains.