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The beverages that children drink during early childhood can affect their health in the future.
Latino children that have regularly consumed sugary drinks are twice as likely to develop obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in their lifetime, according to a new scientific review from Healthy Eating Research (HER). The review specifically studied the negative impact of sugary drinks on children’s health.
“Early childhood is an important time to start shaping nutrition habits and promoting healthy beverage consumption,” said Megan Lott, deputy director of HER.
HER also convened a panel of experts that recommended against flavored milks, sugar-sweetened and caffeinated beverages, toddler formulas, and plant-based/non-dairy milks for all children younger than 5.
“By providing caregivers, health care and early care and education providers, policymakers, and beverage industry representatives a clear set of objectives, science-based recommendations for healthy drink consumption, we can use this opportunity to work together and improve the health and well-being of infants and young children throughout the United States.”
What are the Risks of Sugary Drinks?
Babies under six months of age should only be fed breast milk and formula, according to HER expert panel of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and American Heart Association.
As they progress from 6 to 12 months, small servings of water may be given once solid foods are introduced. Parents are also advised to avoid sugary fruit juices, which are often falsely marketed as promoting early health development.
Once the child turns 1, they can begin drinking whole milk, which provides many beneficial nutrients.
Parents should be warned about the extra hidden sugars that are contained in flavored milks such as strawberry and chocolate. Juices in small amounts are acceptable, but to receive maximum nutritional benefit, consumption of fruits is a preferred healthy choice.
Salud America! has accumulated research, Sugary Drinks and Latino Kids, that includes the health, economics, and alternatives to sugary beverage consumption.
Research demonstrates that marketing companies unfairly target Latino children. They are nearly twice as likely to be fed sugary drinks than their non-Latino peers.
In addition, 74% of Latino children have had a sugary drink by age 2, compared to 45% of white children. This practice of marketing to children is increasing, as Latino preschoolers saw 23% more sugary drink ads on Spanish-language television.
What Does the Review Say?
Due to this increased risk of obesity and diabetes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with the American Heart Association, have adopted solutions to curb children’s consumption of sugary drinks.
These strategies include:
- Increasing taxes on sugary drinks
- Regulating the marketing of sugary drinks to children
- Providing financial incentives to encourage healthier beverage choices
“From the time children are born through those first few years, beverages are a significant source of calories and nutrients and can have a big impact on health long into the future,” said Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“Families deserve clear and consistent guidance on what their young children should drink and what they should avoid. These recommendations from our country’s leading medical and nutrition organizations will help families raise healthy children.”
What Can I Do?
To combat this problematic trend in the Latino community, several strategic actions are necessary.
Firstly, further regulation of school beverage offerings should be implemented, allowing for more healthy alternatives to sugary drinks. School Water Bottle Fountains can help.
Also, increasing the price of sugary beverages should limit its intake and thus decrease obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. It is estimated that a 10% increase in sugary drink prices could reduce consumption by up to 12.1%.
This is where bringing your child into the conversation can help. By promoting healthy alternatives such as milk and water, children can become active participants in their dietary choices. Encouraging regular consumption of low-fat milk and water should be emphasized.
Some kids and families believe tap water is of less quality then purchased bottled water. This common misunderstanding explains why children prefer sugary beverages as an alternative to tap water.
Gaby Medina, a mother and health educator, has been working in her community to address misconceptions about the safety of tap water.
As a water “promotora,” Medina joined a local health promotion group, LiveWell Colorado to discuss and educate Latino families on the importance of drinking water and oral health.
“Many parents don’t know how to take care of their kids’ teeth, and with this campaign, I am helping them learn, this is what motivates me to work,” Medina said.