US children drink less milk and more sweetened beverages like soda and sports drinks as they get older, but such drinks do not necessarily replace milk in children’s diets, according to new research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Children’s milk consumption decreased dramatically from 1977 to 2001, and their sweetened beverage consumption more than doubled. The fact that these two trends happened simultaneously has led some to suggest that sweetened beverages displaced milk in children’s diets, but the authors of this latest study claim that this is not the case.
Researchers examined data from 7,445 children who filled in beverage consumption questionnaires when they were in the fifth grade in 2004 and again when they were in the eighth grade in 2007.
They found that milk consumption fell more among children who drank any sweetened beverages, but consumption of 100% fruit juice increased over time, independent of sweetened beverage consumption. Meanwhile children who drank more milk also drank more fruit juice.
After controlling for demographic and nutritional factors, the researchers concluded that milk and juice were complementary to each other in children’s diets, but there was no significant relationship between their consumption of milk over time and their consumption of sweetened beverages.
“Reducing the intake of caloric beverages is a priority, given the high prevalence of overweight and obesity,” the researchers wrote. “This focus is especially important because the results presented here indicate that caloric beverages tend to be complementary with each other—as children increase their intake of one caloric beverage they also increase their intake of the others.”
They said the main concern was that children who increased their consumption of one high-calorie beverage also increased their consumption of others. They added that consumption of all caloric beverages should be viewed as part of total diet.
Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
“Beverage Displacement between Elementary and Middle School, 2004-2007”
Authors: Reena Oza-Frank,Madeline Zavodny, Solveig A. Cunningham