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Health & Parenting

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Parents Influence Kids' Soft Drink Habits

Drinking Sodas at Home, Keeping Them in Fridge Fuels the Habit

WebMD Health News

Aug. 3, 2004 -- Kids are drinking more sodas than ever. What's the big lure? Their parents. When parents drink colas at home, and soft drinks are kept in the fridge, kids are more likely to drink them regularly, researchers say.

It's no secret: Cola's taste appeals to kids, and TV advertising fuels the habit. But their parents' soft drink habits -- plus easy availability at home and in school vending machines -- has the greatest influence, writes lead researcher Gebra Cuyun Grimm, MPH, RD, an epidemiologist with the CDC.

The nation's obesity epidemic has been linked with the steady increase in soft drink consumption, Grimm writes. Over the past decade, children have nearly doubled their soda intake.

Her nationwide study appears in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. It involved 560 children who completed a survey that appeared in a educational science magazine for children called Dragonfly.

Children were asked about their own soft drink practices and preferences: Do you drink soft drinks? How often? Diet or regular? The survey also asked about their parents' and peers' habits -- and about TV viewing, to gauge exposure to soft drink advertising.

Among the findings:

  • Nearly one-third of kids (30%) consumed soft drinks daily, and only 15% chose diet drinks.
  • Two-thirds (64%) said that one or both parents drank soft drinks regularly (three or four times a week).
  • As they got older, significantly more kids reported that their friends drank soft drinks; 31% of eight- and nine-year-olds, compared with 68% of 12- and 13-year olds.
  • Taste was a major factor: 96% said they liked the taste of soft drinks, compared with 83% who liked milk's taste. Kids who liked the taste were five times as likely to drink sodas regularly.
  • Kids with a steady diet of TV -- more than four hours daily -- were twice as likely to choose soft drinks daily.

Parents' influence was strongly linked with children's soft drink habits, Grimm reports. Also, availability of soft drinks, both at home and in school, was a strong factor in children's consumption:

  • Kids whose parents regularly consumed soft drinks at home and kept them in the house were nearly three times more likely to drink the stuff five or more times per week.
  • Friends' didn't exert as much influence: Kids with soda-drinking friends were twice as likely to also choose colas.
  • Colas in school vending machines doubled the odds that kids would drink them.

Also, only 15% of children consumed diet soft drinks -- 85% chose regular sodas, Grimm reports.

"It is important that parents serve as positive role models," she writes.

Policies and regulations are needed to limit soft drink availability in schools, she writes.

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