Kids’ soft drink habits predict teenage weight: Study

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Five-year-olds’ consumption of sweetened beverages could give an indication of their weight status for the following ten years, according to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Although many studies have looked into beverage intake and weight among children, there have been inconclusive results regarding different types of beverages, such as sweetened soft drinks, milk, and fruit juice. The authors of this latest study examined beverage intake of different kinds in a final sample of 166 girls in central Pennsylvania every two years across a ten year period.

They found that girls who consumed two or more 8 oz. servings of sweetened beverage a day at the age of five “were more likely to be overweight than were girls classified with lower intakes over the study period.”

Specifically, 16.1 percent of five-year-old girls who drank one serving or less were overweight, peaking at 24.2 percent at age nine, before declining to 18.5 percent at age 15. Of those who drank two or more servings of sweetened beverages at age five, 38.5 percent were overweight, reaching 53.9 percent at the age of 11, and 32 percent at 15.

No effect for fruit juice, milk

However, the authors did not find a link between milk or fruit juice consumption and weight status over time.

“Although the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued fruit juice consumption recommendations, no specific recommendations have been made regarding sweetened beverage intake,”​ the authors wrote.

“Guidance to limit the early introduction and intake of sweetened beverages and to reduce their availability should include recommendations to substitute these beverages with healthy alternatives, such as reduced-fat milk and water, while also limiting fruit juice, which is consistent with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

They also found that girls with the highest intakes of sweetened drinks at the age of five had “significantly higher intakes from age 7 to 15​” than those who drank one serving or less. Consumption remained stable for those who drank one to two servings a day, the authors wrote.

Study participants were predominantly non-Hispanic whites from well-educated families, with average household income of $50,000 to $75,000.

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Vol. 90, No. 4, 935-942, October 2009

“Beverage intake of girls at age 5 y predicts adiposity and weight status in childhood and adolescence”

Authors: Laura M Fiorito, Michele Marini, Lori A Francis, Helen Smiciklas-Wright, and Leann L Birch.

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