Excess Sweet Drinks Put Kids at Risk
Drinking Lots of Soda, Juice Steers Children Toward Obesity, Diabetes
Dec. 22, 2006 -- Drinking lots of soda and juice drinks may put kids' health
at risk -- leading to poor health and teen obesity as young as age 13, a U.S.
The findings come from a study of 154 girls seen every two years since age
5. Researchers included Alison K. Ventura, Leann L. Birch, PhD, and Eric Loken,
PhD, of Pennsylvania State University.
By age 13, 14% of the girls studied already showed high risk of developing
metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of
ominous risk factors that indicate a person could be headed toward heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes.
These girls were at or near the danger level for three metabolic syndrome
risk factors -- big waistline, high blood pressurehigh
blood pressure, and a low level of good HDL
What made these high-health-risk girls different from other girls?
Their parents tended to be more obese and to have more obesity-related
health problems than other parents. Indeed, the high-risk girls gained more
weight -- and gained weight faster -- than other girls.
However, the only significant difference in their diet was that, at young
ages, they drank more sugary beverages than other girls.
"We found the highest risk group was consuming more servings of these
sweetened beverages at age 5 to 9, compared to other groups," Ventura tells
WebMD. "At the later ages it was more soda, but in the earlier ages it was
things like 10% fruit juices, sports drinks, and flavored beverages with added
Ventura and colleagues report their findings in the December issue of
Kids' Health at Risk
At age 9, the high-risk girls drank 50% more servings of sweetened beverages
each day than the lowest-risk girls.
That doesn't mean sodas and other sugary drinks are bad. It just means too
many kids get too much of them, says nutritionist Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD,
director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical
"There is no kid-sized soda bottle, and few 6-ounce glasses at
home," Bonci tells WebMD. "So kids get used to drinking soda in
whatever size glass they have at home, whatever size bottle or can -- and that
is not a single serving, it's a tureen.
"And no child needs to be consuming a tureen of soda," she says.
Plus, unlike other calorie-rich foods, drinking a zillion calories in a soft
drink doesn't leave you feeling too full to take in still more calories.
"Nobody drinks half of a 20-ounce bottle of soda and says, 'Whoa, I'm
stuffed!'" Bonci says. "The kids consume a lot of calories and are not
feeling full. So every other aspect of food intake may stay the same."
Moreover, Bonci says, kids who drink sugared drinks aren't drinking milk. So
too many sweet drinks also displace healthy components of a child's diet.
Ventura says the study should be a wake-up call -- if not a fire alarm --
"Metabolic syndrome is
something that develops before we see it. So parents should be aware of these
things right from the start," she says.
"What kids are eating at young ages does have an impact. Even as soon as
age 13, we are seeing the effects of these lifestyle choices," says
The American Beverage Association, a trade group that represents the
beverage industry, did not respond to WebMD's requests for an interview in time