Kids drinking more sugary drinks and juice
By Anne Harding
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children in the U.S. are now getting more of their calories from fruit juice and sugar-sweetened beverages than they were 20 years ago, according to a new analysis of national data published in Pediatrics.
Limiting the consumption of "empty calories" by reducing intake of sugar-sweetened beverages could help kids eat healthier and stay slim, the study's authors, Dr. Y. Claire Wang of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in New York City and colleagues, conclude.
However, the authors of another study out today report that children who drink 100 percent fruit juice are no more likely to be overweight than kids who don't. What's more, say Dr. Theresa A. Nicklas of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and her team, juice drinkers ate more fruit and had a higher intake of several nutrients including vitamin C, folate and potassium.
"The science clearly shows that 100 percent juice is a valuable contributor of nutrients to children's diets and it's not associated with weight," Nicklas told Reuters Health in an interview.
Both sets of researchers looked at the same data: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), in which people report what they ate in the previous 24 hours. Wang and her team compared NHANES 1988-1994 and NHANES 1999-2004, while Nicklas and colleagues looked at 1999-2002 NHANES data.
"I don't think we are really saying opposite things," Wang commented. "The focus of our study is to look at the trends."
Wang and her colleagues looked at the percentage of calories consumed as sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juice from 1988 to 2004. On average, they found, kids 2 to 19 years old got 242 calories a day from these beverages in 1988-1994, and 270 calories daily in 1999-2004; intake of sugar sweetened beverages increased from 204 to 224 calories daily while fruit juice intake rose from 38 to 48 calories per day.
Preschoolers who drank fruit juice consumed an average of 10 ounces a day. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than six ounces daily for children one to six years old. Children 7 to 18 years old should drink no more than 12 ounces, or two servings, of fruit juice daily, according to the AAP. Across children of all ages, average fruit juice consumption was 12.4 ounces daily in 1999-2004, up from 11.2 ounces in 1988-1994.
Two- to five-year-olds were consuming 176 calories a day worth of sugar sweetened beverages, equivalent to more than a can of soda, while 6- to 11-year-olds took in 229 calories in sugar-sweetened beverages daily and 12 to 19 year olds consumed 356 calories, about the same as a 20-ounce bottle.
The sharpest increases in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, of 20 percent, were seen among 6- to 11-year-olds. Consumption also rose more among Latino and African-American children than whites.
Among teens, Wang and her team found, the 84 percent who drank sugar sweetened beverages consumed 30 ounces daily or 360 calories, representing 16 percent of their calorie intake. A 15-year-old boy would have to spend an hour jogging or more than three hours walking in order to burn off this amount of extra calories, the researchers say.
Fruit juice isn't the problem, argues Nicklas, who points out that the daily calorie increase represented by fruit juice is quite small-just 10 calories between the two time periods. "It explains such a small percentage of the calories in the diet. We need to look at where are all the other calories coming from."
Also, Nicklas notes, most Americans aren't meeting fruit consumption requirements, and drinking 100 percent juice may be one way to up fruit intake.
Fruit juices "can never replace the benefits of whole fruit," said Wang. "However I do think that juices do contain some essential nutrients and you cannot say the same thing about sugar sweetened beverages."
Nicklas' study was funded by the US Department of Agriculture and the Juice Products Association. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided support for Wang's research.
SOURCE: Pediatrics, June 2008; Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, June 2008.