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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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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Oct. 31, 2011 -- It's no surprise that many sodas have a lot of sugar. What may be more surprising is that many fruit drinks, often billed as healthier alternatives, are often loaded with close to the same amount of sugar and calories.

That is one of the findings of a new report from Yale University.

The report, being presented today at the American Public Health association annual meeting in Washington, D.C., also finds that many beverage companies are marketing their drinks to kids and teens despite a promise to stop.

The American Beverage Association, an industry trade group, takes issue with the new findings. It says the beverage companies have taken many positive steps to protect children's health, including advertising only certain types of drinks on programming to children 12 and under.

Calories in Drinks

Researchers from Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity looked at the contents of close to 600 drinks made by 14 companies. They included sugary sodas, energy and sports drinks, fruit drinks, flavored waters, and iced teas as well as diet energy drinks and diet children's fruit drinks.

They found that an 8-ounce serving of a full-calorie, non-diet fruit drink has on average 110 calories and 7 teaspoons of sugar. This is equal to the amount that is found in an 8-ounce serving of sugary soda or energy drink.

"The companies have pledged not to advertise to children or if they do, it will just be for certain better-for-you products," says study researcher Jennifer Harris, PhD. She is director of marketing initiatives at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Unfortunately, their idea of "better-for-you" drinks is water, sugar, and a tiny amount of juice, she says.

"Many fruit and energy drinks have as much added sugar and calories as sugary sodas," Harris says. Some of these drinks have as much sugar as an 8-year-old should consume in a day, she says.

Full-calorie iced teas, sports drinks, and flavored waters typically contain 3 to 5 teaspoons of sugar per 8-ounce serving, the report states.

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