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Sugar may have the power to save your baby from brain damage
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Just a spoonful of sugar. New research has found that a little sugar can make a child less likely to have brain damage. - photo by Herb Scribner
Dont worry about giving your baby a spoonful of sugar.

A new study from the University of Auckland in New Zealand has found that giving babies little amounts of sugar will limit the risk of them having brain damage, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Many babies are born with low sugar levels, which can eventually lead to brain damage. But by giving them some sugar, or foods that will increase their blood sugar levels, it limits the risk, NIH reported.

If the baby has regular blood monitoring, to monitor their blood sugar levels and are treated to keep their levels above the safety threshold then those babies seem to be protected from any potential (brain) damage due to the low sugars, so that's a very reassuring message for families, according to Radio New Zealand News.

The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 30 percent of newborns are at risk for hypoglycemia and have a lack of sugar in their blood, Radio New Zealand News reported.

The study said 15 percent of babies suffer from low blood glucose levels every year.

"Hypoglycemia is the single most preventable cause of brain damage in newborns," professor Jane Harding told the Australian Associated Press. "We know that a baby with a blood glucose level that is too low for too long will suffer neurological damage, but there has been debate about just how low, for how long, and in which babies. This is the first clear evidence that treating babies to keep their blood sugar above a widely used safety intervention threshold does indeed protect them."

This isnt the first time research has said sugar can help newborns. Back in 2013, researchers, including Harding, found that putting sugar gel inside the cheek of a baby is one method of limiting possible brain damage, according to BBC. The sugar spiked low blood sugar levels for these newborns, freeing them from brain damage risk.

The study, which tested this gel therapy on more than 240 babies, found that using gel to lightly spike a newborns low sugar level was also cost-effective.

"This is a cost-effective treatment and could reduce admissions to intensive care services, which are already working at high-capacity levels, Andy Cole, then-chief executive of baby charity Bliss, told BBC. While the early results of this research show benefits to babies born with low blood sugars, it is clear there is more research to be done to implement this treatment."

But sugar doesnt heal everything, nor should it be given to babies all the time. As The Guardian reported in 2010, parents often debate whether to give babies sugar water as pain relief. But a study published in The Lancet that year found that sugar doesnt help relieve pain, The Guardian reported.

Medical officials will sometimes use sugar as pain relief for newborns during surgeries, The Guardian reported. But the study found babies will still feel pain, especially through heel pricks.

"This is an important study, Neon Modi, a professor at Imperial College London, told The Guardian. Sucrose is given because it seems to work. If it's confirmed that sucrose doesn't work, we have a problem because we don't have any effective treatments for acutely painful procedures in newborns."

But while sugar may not relieve pain for pricks on the feet, research has found sugar can provide easy pain relief for vaccinations, according to WebMD. In fact, a 2010 study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood found that children as old as 1 were less likely to feel pain when they had sugar before immunization shots, WebMD reported.

To find this, researchers reviewed 14 different studies that were no older than 1 year old. In 13 of those 14 studies, infants cried less if they had sugar before their shots, WebMD reported.

Medical professionals told WebMD they will sometimes give sugar to babies before circumcisions since sugar works similar to an anesthesia.

"It can also be a useful strategy to get kids to settle down for stitches, especially if they are at an age where they are still sucking on a pacifier," Dr. Laura Wilwerding told WebMD.

A similar study in 2012 found that sugar water can help reduce pain, too. After reviewing more than 150 different studies, the researchers found babies cried less when they had sugar and sugar water before uncomfortable procedures, according to What To Expect, a parental advice website.

Still, parents should be careful about how much sugar theyre giving their baby.

Now, this isn't to say that parents should go out and start dosing their babies with sugar water for every ailment, according to What To Expect. There aren't yet established standards for this method of pain management, even in hospitals and care centers where it's used most commonly. Parents should always work carefully with medical professionals when it comes to treating their children."