Sweetened beverages such as sports drinks, sodas, and fruit drinks (excluding 100 percent fruit juice) have been blamed (unfairly, ACSH believes) for the obesity rife among adults and adolescents. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that the same is true for pre-schoolers as well, although the study cannot be said to prove causality.
Dr. Mark DeBoer and colleagues from the University of Virginia and Columbia University assessed the sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption and BMI (Body Mass Index) scores of 9600 children. They found that 9.3 percent of 2-year olds were given SSBs, and that increased to 13 percent at 4-years old, and nearly 12 percent at age 5
They found that among children 4 or 5 years old, SSB consumption and BMI were significantly related. However, 2-year old children did not show the same correlation. When the 2-year olds were followed for an additional 2 years, those who regularly drank SSB had a significantly greater increase in BMI than children who were infrequent or non-drinkers.
Although these data are alarming, it must be pointed out that there were weaknesses in the study. First, the information on the kids drink consumption was provided by parents, not directly observed. Parents might not have accurately reported their children s consumption. Second, only beverage consumption was assessed we do not know how many total calories the children took in. It could be that along with an increased SSB consumption, the kids also consumed more calories from food.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava commented This study is concerning, not because of the postulated correlations between SSBs and BMI, but because of the finding that children as young as 2 years are being allowed to drink SSBs. There is no good reason such young children should be given these beverages on a regular basis because they have an increased need for essential nutrients to support growth and development. SSBs could replace nutrient-rich foods and beverages in the children s diets.