Numerous studies have linked sweetened drinks to children's weight problems. We know that fruit juice, sodas, and other sugar-sweetened beverages pack a caloric punch. But how much is too much, and what role should these drinks play in a child's diet?
Two new studies analyzed dietary intake information from nationally represented surveys about children's drinking habits. One study shows that children and adolescents are drinking more juice and sugary drinks. The other study shows that children who drink 100% fruit juice are not more likely to be overweight than those who do not drink 100% fruit juice.
More Calories Coming From Sweet Drinks
The first study, published in the June edition of Pediatrics, looks at trends - what children drink, how much, and how it's changing. Data came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected from 1988 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2004.
The study shows that the number of calories children and adolescents (aged 2 to 19) get from sugar-sweetened drinks and 100% fruit juices is on the rise:
Soda contributed 67% of all sugar-sweetened drink calories among adolescents.
During that same time periods, sports drink consumption tripled among adolescents.
Home Is Where the Soda Is
The study also shows that many of these drinks are drunk in the home:
Study researcher Y. Claire Wang, MD, ScD, and colleagues recommend that pediatricians be aware of the trends to help parents "identify suboptimal dietary patterns" to help keep kids healthy.
WebMD spoke with registered dietitian Page Love, who works with overweight and obese children . She says it's best for parents to limit sodas, sports drinks, and other drinks with added sugar.
Love has "no problem with children drinking fruit juice to meet their nutritional needs." She says one downside of drinking fruit juice is it moves out of the body so quickly, so children get hungrier faster. Love recommends 100% fruit juice and pieces of whole fruit as part of a healthy diet.
Juice Not Linked to Extra Weight
In the second study, published in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, researcher Theresa Nicklas, DrPH, of Baylor College of Medicine, and colleagues compared 100% fruit juice drinkers to those who did not drink 100% fruit juice, using data from NHANES of children aged 2 to eleven from 1999 to 2002.
Here's what they found:
Sue Taylor is a registered dietitian with the Juice Products Association. That group provided a grant to Baylor College f Medicine, in part funding the study.
Taylor says fruit juice has gotten a "bad rep."
"Obesity is such a complex issue that it's not accurate to single out one food as a problem," she says.
Taylor notes that "even though children consumed a few more calories than those who didn't drink juice, they (the juice drinkers) had a healthier overall diet."
Tips for Keeping in Balance
By Kelley Colihan
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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