Childhood Obesity and The Threat of Sweet Drinks

I've posted many articles on my site about childhood obesity, an epidemic some experts believe is far worse than anyone ever expected. One such culprit, sweet drinks ranging from all natural fruit juices to powdered drink with sugar added, raise a child's risk of obesity, according to a new study.

Although fruit drinks generally contain some vitamins and some have no additional sugar, experts believe such drinks are far inferior to eating fresh fruit. (In fact, new U.S. dietary guidelines recommend eating fruit over juices.)

For 3- and 4-year-old kids who are already heavy, drinking something sweet once or twice a day doubled their risk of becoming seriously overweight a year later, according to the study. However, sweet drinks did little to children of normal weight.

Of course, one lobbying group -- the American Beverage Association -- disputed the results saying the study didn't take into account other factors of childhood obesity, including overweight parents, excessive TV viewing and a lack of physical activity.

While those factors are certainly true, consider this: Fruit juice has about eight full teaspoons of sugar, better known as fructose, per 8-ounce glass. And fructose is every bit as dangerous as regular table sugar since it will also result in a major increase in insulin levels.

For those of you with children who are already heavy fruit juice drinkers, here's a practical tip for weaning kids from it: Dilute the juice with water. Start slowly by diluting slightly and keep increasing the water content over time.

Pediatrics Vol. 115 No. 2 February 2005, pp. e223-e229 (free full text article)

San Francisco Chronicle February 7, 2005

USA Today February 7, 2005

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