We have all heard about the obesity risks associated with added sugar in our diets.  With early childhood obesity now reaching near epidemic proportions, it’s no surprise sugary drinks for kids are getting even more bad press. A study by researchers at the University of Virginia and Columbia University, published last month in the journal Pediatrics, shows kids’ weight gain is nearly 50% higher when they get their sugar fix from such beverages.

The study monitored sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption and BMI z scores of 9,600 children born into the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey-Birth Cohort and collected at ages 2, 4 and 5 years. SSBs were defined as sugar-containing sodas such as Coke, Pepsi and Mountain Dew, sports drinks like Gatorade and juices with added sugar like Kool-Aid and Sunny Delight. BMI z scores are a statistical measure of how far above the normal value a kid’s BMI should be. The data gathered demonstrated that SSBs were significantly associated with higher BMI z scores among children ages 4 and 5 years old but not yet at age 2. They also noticed that kids age 5 were 43% more likely to be obese compared to infrequent or non-SSB drinkers. Now, while the 2-year-olds had not yet shown signs of obesity, those that were consuming SSBs at that age were more likely to have higher BMI’s by the time they were 4 years old.

This is yet more evidence that the extra calories our kids are getting from sugary drinks are resulting in an unhealthy weight gain. However, sugary drinks are not the only risk factors we need be concerned with. Subliminal messaging for unhealthy food products during movies, unhealthy snacking and  overweight parents are among the highest. So, how can we satisfy that sweet tooth in a healthy manner? Research shows one delicious way is real fruit juice. Studies show 100% fruit juice drinkers are less likely to be overweight and way better nourished!

Published October 1, 2013