Sugary Drinks & Latino Kids: A Research Review


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Did you know three of four Latino kids have had a sugary drink by age 2?

Latino kids at all ages consume more sugary drinks—soda, sports and energy drinks, sugary fruit juices, and flavored milk—than the average child.

This extra consumption puts them at greater risk of unhealthy weight.

Several strategies are emerging to limit kids’ sugary drink consumption. These include: policies on the availability and promotion of sugary drinks and water in school and early child care settings; regulatory and voluntary measures to limit marketing of sugary drinks to children; and pricing initiatives to raise the price of sugary drinks.

Increasing access to water also is a critical way to develop healthier, hydrated children.

Read the Issue Brief in English (PDF)
Read the Issue Brief in Spanish (PDF)
Video in Spanish


Introduction & Methods. This research review by Salud America! and Bridging the Gap is an assessment of available research about sugary drink consumption among Latino children. This review also examines available evidence on policies and practices to reduce sugary drink consumption and increase water consumption among Latino youth.

Key Research Findings

sugary drinks latino kids data
Available in Spanish

Latino kids’ sugary drink consumption rates. Latino infants were twice as likely to be fed sugary drinks than their non-Latino peers. 74% of Latino kids have had a sugary drink by age 2 (vs. 45% of white kids). Several studies have reported higher consumption of sugary drinks by Latinos ages 2-5, 6-11, and 12-19.

Sugary drinks and weight gain. Latino kids who consumed sugary drinks had 2.3x the odds of severe obesity. Latino toddlers ages 2-4 who didn’t consume sugary drinks had 31% lower odds of obesity than those with a high intake.

latino sugary drink marketing
Available in Spanish

Sugary drink marketing. Latino preschoolers saw 23% more sugary drink ads on Spanish-language TV in 2013 than 2010. The Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative is a voluntary self-regulation program for food and drink companies to advertise healthier products to kids under age 12.

Sugary drinks in childcare settings. Few early childcare facilities report serving sugary drinks, but increased regulation can reduce serving of sugary drinks and increase promotion of water.

sugary drink pricing research infographic
Available in Spanish

Sugary drink pricing. A 10% increase in sugary drink prices could reduce consumption by up to 12.1%. Initiatives that increase sugary drink prices have the potential to decrease Latino childhood obesity by 2.9 percentage points.

Access to clean water. Latino kids consume less plain water than white kids. Latino kids are more likely to perceive tap water as unsafe and are less likely to drink it than white kids. When New York elementary and middle schools replaced vending machines with water jets, students’ likelihood of being overweight dropped up to 0.9 percentage points.


Policy Implications. Early childcare centers should adopt best practices from the revised Child and Adult Care Food Program guidelines on promoting water and avoiding serving sugary drinks. Stronger restrictions on sugary drink marketing to kids are needed to make significant reductions in exposure to unhealthy advertising and promotions. Policies to lower the price of healthier beverages relative to sugary drinks are also likely to reduce sugary drink consumption and potentially improve weight outcomes.

Future Research Needs. Further research is needed on differences by Latino subgroups in sugary drink and water consumption and the effect on weight and health, especially in the early childcare setting. Additional research also is warranted on the impact of sugary drink pricing initiatives and water pricing incentives in Latino communities, as many cities and states have introduced and/or passed legislation in recent years.


See the Full Research Review with references (PDF)

About the Authors

  • Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., Director, Salud America!, Professor, Institute for Health Promotion Research, UT Health San Antonio
  • Kipling J. Gallion, M.A., Deputy Director, Salud America!, Assistant Professor, Institute for Health Promotion Research, UT Health San Antonio
  • Frank J. Chaloupka, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago, Bridging the Gap
  • Leah Rimkus, M.P.H., R.D., Metropolitan Family Services (formerly Bridging the Gap)

This report is copyright 2017 RWJF, Route 1 and College Road, P.O. Box 2316, Princeton, NJ, 08543-2316,

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of Latino kids have had a sugary drink by age 2 (vs. 45% of white kids)

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