Walk into a supermarket’s beverage aisle and you’ll see enormous shelves splattered with eye-catching labels, cartoon fruits, and smiley juice jugs.
Rainbow slogans splashed onto bottle wrappers catch your attention with lines such as “Capri-Diem! Squeeze the day!” or “The taste of fun!”. These fruit-flavored and juice drinks are the most common sugary drink consumed by young children.
According to researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, 66% of the 2.2 billion worth of drinks marketed to children contains added sugar.
Out of the 23 children’s beverage brands and 67 sub-brands the researchers analyzed, 65% contained added sugars and 74% contained low-calorie sweeteners. Only 35% actually contained juice!
Effects Of Sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks are especially unhealthy. When a person consumes a sugary beverage, they will not feel as full as when they consume a solid meal. This will lead them to compensate by continuing to eat. This compensation means a greater caloric intake, and consequently, increased weight gain.
Consuming sugary beverages on a regular basis without reducing caloric intake elsewhere, can result in a yearly weight gain of 5 pounds. And for children, each additional sugary beverage consumed gives them a 60% greater risk of obesity. With obesity comes a higher risk for type-2 diabetes, a condition where the body is unable to regulate blood sugar, causing glucose to build up in the afflicted person’s bloodstream.
Type-2 diabetes can be lethal if left undetected and can lead to blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, lower limb amputation, and even premature death. Sugary drinks, soda, in particular, can also affect bone health. Soda contains high levels of phosphate, which, if consumed in greater amounts than calcium, can adversely affect bones.
Drinks Suitable For Children
The researchers found that none of the children’s drinks they analyzed were appropriate for children under the age of 14, owing to the added sweeteners in the beverages.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics, breast milk or infant formula are sufficient for infants, and milk and water for older children. Toddlers can consume 100% fruit juices in limited amounts—less than 4 ounces per day; and older children at most 8 ounces (one cup) per day. Fresh juices made from whole fruits are healthy, as they contain important fibers and nutrients. Flavored unsweetened sparkling water and diluted juice are also appropriate.
The study is a reminder that we need to read labels and be vigilant about what we put into our bodies. Check out this video on how sugar affects your brain, making you crave for more!
Sources: Healthline, Heart.org, Harvard.edu, NYTimes, Clevelandclinic.org