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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Can sugary drinks lead to obesity?

We all know that most of us eat too many foods high in added sugar.  But then we hear “All things in moderation” to justify our sugary snack fixes.  But what about kids, is added sugar harmful to kids?  Some new research indicates sugary drinks in preschoolers can lead to obesity.   

When I was growing up, it seemed no one drank sugary drinks very often.  Once a week, my father would let us have a 7 ounce sugary soda (soda came in 7 ounce bottles back then).  The rest of the time we had milk with our meals and drank water if we were thirsty.  Now, many parents give their kids soda at meals instead of milk and sugary drinks like Sunny D and Capri Sun in place of 100% juice.  So what did the study find?

Researchers found that 5 year olds who drank sugared drinks like sodas, sports-drinks and even juices high in added sugar every day were more likely to be obese than their peers who drank these sugary drinks less often.  They noted that we have long known that sugary drinks can lead to obesity in adults and teenagers, but now they know it can affect preschoolers as well.  They studied 9,600 kids ages, 2,4 and 5.  The good news is that only 9-13 percent of the kids had sugary drinks every day.  The kids indulging in the sugary drinks also were more likely to have a mom who was overweight and to watch more than 2 hours of TV a day.   (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV for kids under 2 and limiting TV or “screen” time to 1-2 hours a day for children.  And this screen time should be educational).   The five year olds that did drink one sugary drink a day greatly increased their chances of becoming obese.  These kids were 43% more likely to be obese than kids who did not drink the sugary drinks every day.  

One of the co-authors of the study suggested parents choose water and milk for beverages (as kids did when I was growing up.)  

 One thing about sugary drinks like soda is that they have no real nutritional value.  No fiber, no vitamins, no minerals, no antioxidants, just a huge surge of sugar for the body to deal with all at once.  When we eat an apple, we digest it more slowly as the apple has fiber so it takes some time to digest.   There is really no digestion with a sugared soda, almost a straight shot into the blood stream.  So should sugary drinks be banned from children’s diets?  Even the co-author of the study didn’t suggest this but did note that sugary drinks should be rare treats. 

 If more parents limited sugary drinks to once a week or less, there would be less childhood obesity.  Going back to the old fashioned milk at meals and water to quench thirst would be a healthy thing for parents to do.   

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