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Study: Too Much Sugar in Drinks Marketed to Kids

Report Suggests That Many Drinks That Sound Healthy Have Lots of Sugar and Calories
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Calories in Drinks continued...

The stakes are high, Harris says.

Drinking just one 8-ounce sugar-sweetened drink everyday increases a child's odds for becoming obese by 60%. Sugary drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugar in our diets and the No. 1 source of calories for teens, the report states.

"Parents believe that drinks like Capri Sun, Sunny D, Gatorade, and Vitamin Water are healthy choices for their kids, but they are not," Harris says.

"We were surprised by how little juice there was in children's fruit drinks. And a lot of diet drinks have artificial sweeteners. But unless you know the chemical name, you wouldn't realize it," she says.

Harris says that the only appropriate drinks for children are water, low-fat milk, and 100% fruit juices.

Nutritionist Dana Greene, RD, agrees. "Don't be fooled by healthy-looking labels," she says. "Read the fine print and if you can't pronounce it, you probably don't need or want it in your child's body."

Advertising of Kids' Beverages

The researchers also analyzed advertising on television, the Internet, social media sites, and mobile apps.

Many beverage companies got behind the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative in November 2006. The initiative is designed to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to encourage healthier choices.

The report says that many -- although not all -- of these companies are not making good on their promises.

The exposure of children and teens to TV ads hawking unhealthy sugary soda doubled from 2008 to 2010, the study shows. The companies also seem to be increasingly targeting African-American and Hispanic youth, the new report suggests. In fact, African-American children and teens saw as much as 90% more ads than the white children and teens.

The study also shows that energy drinks are marketed to children and teens even though the American Academy of Pediatrics explicitly states these beverages are not appropriate for them.

Many beverage companies are also reaching kids and teens where they live -- namely social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, the study shows. Twenty-one sugary drink brands had YouTube channels in 2010.

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