Children who drink sugar-sweetened beverages consume more calories than other children and the beverages are the main reason for that higher calorie intake, a new study reveals.
In addition, children who drink sugar-sweetened beverages eat more unhealthy foods than other children, the researchers found.
Evidence shows that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages — which include sodas, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks — has risen in the past 20 years.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 11,000 U.S. children, aged 2 to 18, who were included in national surveys between 2003 and 2010. During this time, children’s consumption of food and sugar-sweetened beverages increased, while they drank fewer non-sweetened beverages.
Further analysis revealed that sugar-sweetened beverages were the primary cause of the increased calorie intake seen among children aged 2 to 11. Both food and sugar-sweetened beverages contributed to increased calorie intake among children aged 12 to 18, according to the report scheduled for publication in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
“Among all age groups analyzed, the energy density (calories per gram) of food consumed increased with higher sugar-sweetened beverage intake,” lead investigator Kevin Mathias, of the department of nutrition at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a journal news release.
He said the findings suggest that higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with consumption of foods with high levels of calories.
“This is concerning because many foods that are associated with higher sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (e.g., pizza, cakes/cookies/pies, fried potatoes, and sweets) are also top sources of solid fats and added sugars; components of the diet that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends Americans should limit,” Mathias said.