It is common knowledge that sugary beverages are not a component of a healthy diet; however, many individuals worldwide regularly consume them. A new report on sugary drink consumption in California was released on October 17. It was produced collaboratively by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA). It noted that, on the positive sided, consumption of soda and other sugary drinks among young children in California is starting to decline; however an alarming 8% increase has occurred among teens; in addition, this age group contains the biggest consumers of these beverages.
The California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) was based on interviews with more than 40,000 California households. The survey, Still Bubbling Over: California Adolescents Drinking More Soda and Other Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, revealed a comprehensive analysis of sugary drink consumption by children aged two through 17. The report was then produced collaboratively by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and CCPHA. It charted consumption patterns from two time intervals: 2005-2007 to 2011-2012. It also provides county-by-county youth consumption rates.
On a positive note, the report noted a dramatic decrease in the proportion of young children drinking sugary beverages daily over the seven-year period. It revealed that only 19% of two-to-five-year-olds drink a sugary beverage daily, marking a 30% decrease from the 2005-2007 reporting period. A 26% decrease was also found among six-to-11-year-olds; despite that decrease, the 2011-2012 rate stands at 32%, noting that further improvement is needed. However, of greater concern is the significant increase in consumption of adolescents aged 12 through 17. The report notes that currently, a whopping 65% of California adolescents drink sugary beverages daily, marking an 8% increase from the 2005-2007 reporting period. In addition, the report reveals that, although 23% of this group are drinking soft drinks, 23% more are consuming energy and sports drinks on a daily basis.
“California has made real progress in reducing the consumption of sugary beverages among young children,” noted lead author Dr. Susan Babey. She added, “But teens are in trouble. Soda or sports drinks should be an occasional treat, not a daily habit. If this trend isn’t reversed there may be costly consequences for teens, their families and the healthcare system in the form of increased obesity and diabetes.”
The study does not directly examine the causes for the spike in sugary drink consumption among adolescents; however, Dr. Harold Goldstein, CCPHA’s executive director, suggests a likely reason. He explained, “As parents learn more about the harm from consuming sugary drinks, they are limiting how much their children drink. Teens, however, are more independent, making them an ideal target for beverage companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars marketing sugary drinks to them, including deceptively healthy-sounding beverages like sports drinks and vitamin water. We may not be able to protect teens everywhere but we should at least close the loophole in state law that allows beverages companies to sell sugary sports drinks on middle and high school campuses.”
The study authors note that research suggests that sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugar in the diets of children and adolescents and a significant contributor to total caloric intake. Furthermore, unlike any other product that children consume in large quantities, soft drinks have no nutritional value. Almost 40% of California youth are overweight, and one-third of all children born in 2000, including half of Latino and African-American children, will develop diabetes sometime in their lives.
In regard to ethnicity, the report found that sugary drink consumption decreased among all ethnicities for young children (2-to-11-year olds); however, it spiked among adolescent Latinos, Asians and African-Americans. Among African-American adolescents, 74% reported drinking at least one sugary beverage a day, marking a 14% rise from 2005-2007. Latino adolescents came in as a close second at 73%. Although African Americans and Latinos had the highest consumption rate, the sharpest increase occurred among Asian adolescents: a 31% increase; 48-63% reported consuming at least one sugary beverage a day.
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Take home message:
This report contains a very disturbing finding: increased consumption of sugary beverages by California teens. It is well known that consumption of these beverages increases the risk of obesity, cardiac disease, and diabetes. The future health status of these teens is severely compromised.