Sugary Drinks Tied to Obesity in Young Children

Published Online: Thursday, September 12, 2013
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Sugary beverages have long been associated with obesity in older children, and now new research suggests that sugar-sweetened drinks may have similar effects in young children.

The study, published online on August 5, 2013, in Pediatrics, analyzed the relationship between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and the body mass indexes (BMIs) of 9600 children 2 to 5 years of age in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey. Sugar-sweetened drinks included soda, sports drinks, and juices with added sugars.

After adjusting for race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, mother’s BMI, and time spent watching television, the results indicated that higher rates of sugary beverage consumption were associated with higher BMIs in children aged 4 to 5 years. Five-year-olds who consumed more than 1 sugar-sweetened drink a day were 43% more likely to be obese than children who did not drink these beverages or those who did so infrequently.

The researchers also found that children who drank sweetened beverages regularly drank less milk and were more likely to watch more than 2 hours of television a day compared with infrequent drinkers and nondrinkers. Although an association between obesity and sugary beverage consumption was not observed among children 2 years of age, those who drank sugary beverages regularly had greater increases in BMI over the next 2 years than children who did not.

The study authors suggest that parents and pediatricians discourage the consumption of sugary beverages and instead offer children milk and calorie-free drinks.

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