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It is no secret that the health of the next generation of Americans is in jeopardy. While there has been an enormous push to educate parents, children, healthcare professionals, educators and communities about these dangers, little progress has been achieved to combat obesity and sedentary living amongst our youth. Changing dietary patterns in a free society is challenging. Getting kids to eat foods they don’t like- well…most of us have tried. For many kids, this healthy trend could begin with one simple question: “How many sweetened drinks do you consume each day?”

In the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, a study suggests a dose-response-like effect of consuming sweetened beverages and both BMI and insulin resistance in obese children 5-18 yo (in this study, sweetened beverages included sodas, fruit juices and flavored milk). At baseline, 23% of the children claimed to drink more than a liter of sweetened beverages per day! BMI increased and insulin sensitivity decreased by each quintile of sweetened beverage consumed [Pub Med].

In this trial, these children were advised to reduce consumption of specific beverages and encouraged to consume more water, unsweetened milk and other unsweetened beverages. Children with the highest baseline BMI and insulin resistance responded the best when they reduced their daily consumption of sweetened beverages. While much more can be recommended to help affect insulin sensitivity in this population, it is encouraging that a single target of dietary modification can have significant impact. Interestingly, a recent study published in Hypertension [Pub Med], shows that consuming salty snacks is directly linked to the increased consumption of sweetened beverages. These authors predict that if salt consumption were cut in half, children would consume 2.3 fewer soft drinks per week (The odds ratio of becoming obese among children increases 1.6 times for each additional can or glass of sugar-sweetened drink consumed beyond their usual daily intake of the beverage). So now you have two simple questions to ask every parent and/or child that steps into your office.

References and Further Information:

  • The role of sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in adolescent obesity: a review of the literature. J Sch Nurs. 2008 Feb;24(1):3-1.
  • Regular sugar-sweetened beverage consumption between meals increases risk of overweight among preschool-aged children. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Jun;107(6):924-34
  • Increasing caloric contribution from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices among US children and adolescents, 1988-2004. Pediatrics. 2008 Jun;121(6):e1604-14.
  • Dietary intake and the metabolic syndrome in overweight Latino children. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Aug;108(8):1355-9.
  • Impact of dairy products and dietary calcium on bone-mineral content in children: results of a meta-analysis. Bone. 2008 Aug;43(2):312-21.
  • Short- and long-term safety of weekly high-dose vitamin D3 supplementation in school children. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jul;93(7):2693-701.
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