Too Many Sugary Drinks for Kids

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Sugar sweetened beverages may promote weight gain in children

August 26, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) Most kids love sugary beverages, but parents should be mindful of how much of these beverages their kids are drinking.

A recent review of studies found that drinking more sugar-sweetened drinks was linked to weight gain among children and adults.

The study authors noted that it is especially important to have overweight children reduce their consumption of sugary beverages.

"Limit your child's sugary drink consumption."

This study was led by Vasanti Malik, ScD, from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The research team conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to determine if there was an association between consumption of sugary beverages and weight gain in children and adults.

The researchers searched three databases (PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library) to identify studies that examined the relationship between sugary beverage consumption and weight gain.

The studies included in the final analysis had to be original research, focus only on sugary beverage consumption, take into account factors that might influence the relationship between sugary beverages and weight gain, be a cohort (observational) study or clinical trial conducted on kids or adults, and if it was a clinical trial, it had to include a control (comparison) group and last for at least two weeks.

Based on this criteria, 32 studies were included in the final analysis (20 studies involving children and 12 involving adults).

In the analysis, the researchers looked at body weight measurements, type of sugary beverage and serving and frequency of consumption. Various factors were adjusted for in each of the studies, some of which were age, sex and total energy intake.

The researchers found that for each 12-ounce serving of a sugary beverage per day, there was a 0.06 unit increase in body mass index (BMI — a measure of height and weight) for children over a one-year period.

For adults, they found that for each 12-ounce serving of a sugary beverage per day there was about a half a pound weight gain over a one-year time period.

"This very detailed study confirms the approach that the pediatric professional community advocates: that families should eliminate sugar sweetened beverages from their daily diet. The data confirms the recommendation that all parents should change patterns of family meals and snacks if they involve sugar sweetened beverages. Good alternatives are water, water with lemons, sparkling water with a small splash of juice, low sodium broth or miso, and diet drinks very sparingly. Adults can also drink non-sugar added coffee or tea," Dr. Garry Sigman, Director of the Pediatric Weight Management and Adolescent Medicine for Loyola Medicine, told dailyRx News. 

"The data confirms the recommendation that wellness counsels and committees of schools should make efforts to eliminate sugary drinks from their menus and education students and parents about the harm of drinking them," said Dr. Sigman.

The study authors noted that it is difficult to gauge the importance of their findings for children since kids will gain weight as they fully develop and mature. They add, however, that it is important to monitor and reduce consumption of sugary beverages especially in children who are already overweight or obese.

This article is currently in press and will be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study authors reported no competing interests.