Study: Too Much Sugar in Drinks Marketed to Kids
Report Suggests That Many Drinks That Sound Healthy Have Lots of Sugar and Calories
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.
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."