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Sweet Drinks: What’s Best for Kids?

One Study Looks at Consumption Trends; Another Study Touts Benefits of 100% Fruit Juice
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Kids Juice Drinks

June 3, 2008 -- 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.

(Do your kids love fruit juice? Take our poll on WebMD's Parenting: Preschoolers and Grade Schoolers board.)

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:

  • Children and adolescents get 10% to 15% of total calories from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juice.
  • Children aged 6 to 11 saw a 20% increase in caloric intake from sugar-sweetened drinks.

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:

  • On a typical weekday, 55% to 70% of sugar-sweetened drinks were guzzled at home.
  • 7% to 15% of sugar-sweetened drinks were sipped at schools.

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 11 from 1999 to 2002.

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