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Kids Who Drink Them Not Getting Vital Nutrients

July 1, 2003 -- Children who slurp down a lot of soft drinks and fruit juice may not only gain weight, but they may also be sacrificing valuable nutrition. A new study shows too many sugary drinks may be fueling the increase in childhood obesity and putting children at risk for health problems in the future.

The study showed that children who drank more than 12 ounces of sweetened drinks, such as soft drinks, fruit juice, bottled tea, or drinks made from flavored powders, gained significantly more weight than those who drank less than 6 ounces of the sweet stuff per day.

Researchers say children who drank sugary soft drinks and fruit juice also drank less milk and missed out on vital nutrients such as calcium.

"These findings suggest that sweetened drinks may be a significant factor in the increase in obesity among children in the United States," says researcher David Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences and psychology at Cornell University in New York, in a news release. "And the fact that these drinks and fruit juice displace milk is dangerous, especially for girls, who need a strong supply of calcium before they mature or they will be at risk for osteoporosis after age 60."

In the study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers tracked the amount of food and beverages consumed by 30 children between the ages of 6 and 13 for four to eight weeks while they were enrolled in a day camp.

Where the Calories Are

Researchers found that the more sugary drinks the children consumed, the less milk they drank and the more weight they gained. When given a choice between sweetened drinks and milk, the children chose the sugary drinks, and caregivers rarely offered milk at snack time or at a meal when sweetened drinks were also served.

Despite the high calorie content of sweetened soft drinks and fruit juices, researchers say children who drank sugary drinks did not reduce the quantity or calorie content of the foods they ate, so their daily calorie intake rose and they gained weight.

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