New Study Links High-Sugar Drinks with Unhealthy Weight Gain in Young Children
The consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks has been thoroughly studied and linked to bad health and weight gain in adults as well as older children. Dr. Bill and Martha Sears have given hundreds of talks about the harmful effects of drinks high in sugar content, such as soda (or “diabetes-in-a-bottle” as Dr. Bill calls it). Now researchers from the University of Virginia and Columbia University have shown this same link holds true in young children (ages 2 to 5) as well.
The study, published in the September 2013 issue of Pediatrics by the American Academy of Pediatrics, followed 9600 children, including their drinking habits and BMI (body-mass index), and recorded the following results: children who drank sugar-sweetened beverages at age 2 showed a greater increase in BMI over the next 2 years, compared to infrequent or nondrinkers. Also, 4-year-olds with a higher intake of such beverages showed a higher BMI, while 5-year-olds who consumed these drinks regularly were more likely to already be obese.
This study reinforces the need to shape a child’s tastes at a very young age. Parents, pediatricians, teachers, and other adults in a child’s life should discourage the consumption of these sugar-sweetened drinks and instead focus on promoting healthy eating habits. For further discussion about sugar, see our article on the harmful effects of excess sugar. For tips on how to encourage healthy nutrition habits, see our sections on Family Nutrition as well as Feeding Infants and Toddlers.