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Children aged two to 18 in the US should eat less than 25 grams of added sugars each day, the American Heart Association has recommended.

The AHA also advised children under the age of 2 should not eat food and drinks containing added sugars.

The association said eating foods high in added sugars throughout childhood is linked to the development of risk factors for heart disease, such as an increased risk of obesity and elevated blood pressure in children and young adults.

“Studies of nutrients such as added sugars are challenging, but over time the number of studies in children has increased,” Miriam Vos, lead author of the AHA’s report and nutrition scientist and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said. “We believe the scientific evidence for our recommendations is strong and having a specific amount to target will significantly help parents and public health advocates provide the best nutrition possible for our children.”

The guidelines, the first the AHA has drawn up for children, comes as the US food sector prepares to put information on the added sugars in their products on the Nutrition Facts labels carried on packaging. In May, the US Food and Drug Administration said the Nutrition Facts labels displayed on food on sale in the country would include details on “added sugars” in grams and in percentage form. Manufacturers have a deadline of 26 July 2018.

The AHA’s recommendations were described by US health advocacy group The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as “a watershed moment in our ongoing efforts to help children and families lead healthier lives”.

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Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, added: “Reducing the amount of added sugars children consume is one of the smartest, most effective strategies we can pursue to reverse the national childhood obesity epidemic. Parents, policymakers, industry leaders, health advocates, and communities all share the responsibility for ensuring that this guidance swiftly becomes a part of our national nutrition fabric.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the body representing food manufacturers operating in the US, asked for a reaction to the AHA’s guidance, said: “Over-consumption of any food, including foods with added sugars, can lead to obesity or other negative health consequences. Consumers should not focus on any one food or ingredient, but should instead work towards eating a variety of foods as recommended by combined with regular physical activity to create an overall healthy lifestyle.”