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Sweet Drinks: What’s Best for Kids?

One Study Looks at Consumption Trends; Another Study Touts Benefits of 100% Fruit Juice

Home Is Where the Soda Is

The study also shows that many of these drinks are drunk in the home:

  • On a typical weekday, 55% to 70% of sugar-sweetened drinks were guzzled at home.
  • 7% to 15% of sugar-sweetened drinks were sipped at schools.

Study researcher Y. Claire Wang, MD, ScD, and colleagues recommend that pediatricians be aware of the trends to help parents "identify suboptimal dietary patterns" to help keep kids healthy.

WebMD spoke with registered dietitian Page Love, who works with overweight and obese children. She says it's best for parents to limit sodas, sports drinks, and other drinks with added sugar.

Love has "no problem with children drinking fruit juice to meet their nutritional needs." She says one downside of drinking fruit juice is it moves out of the body so quickly, so children get hungrier faster. Love recommends 100% fruit juice and pieces of whole fruit as part of a healthy diet.

Juice Not Linked to Extra Weight

In the second study, published in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, researcher Theresa Nicklas, DrPH, of Baylor College of Medicine, and colleagues compared 100% fruit juice drinkers to those who did not drink 100% fruit juice, using data from NHANES of children aged 2 to 11 from 1999 to 2002.

Here's what they found:

  • 100% fruit juice drinkers who drank more than 6 ounces had higher levels of carbohydrates, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, magnesium, and iron than those who did not drink 100% fruit juice.
  • Those who drank more than 6 ounces of 100% fruit juice also ate more whole fruit and less fat and added sugar than those who didn't drink 100% juice. There was no reduction of dairy, vegetables, meat, and whole grain intake in children who drank 100% fruit juice compared with those who didn't.
  • Those who didn't drink 100% fruit juice drank more sodas and sugar-added fruit drinks.
  • Drinking 100% fruit juice was not linked to being overweight or obese in children aged 2 to 11.

Sue Taylor is a registered dietitian with the Juice Products Association. That group provided a grant to Baylor College of Medicine, in part funding the study.

Taylor says fruit juice has gotten a "bad rep."

"Obesity is such a complex issue that it's not accurate to single out one food as a problem," she says.

Taylor notes that "even though children consumed a few more calories than those who didn't drink juice, they (the juice drinkers) had a healthier overall diet."

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