Monday, September 9, 2013

Why Soda and Fruit Juice are Dangerous for Kids

Empty calories aren't the only risk in sugar-laden drinks. Here are tips for giving kids alternatives to soda.

Soda and sugar cubes

Think gaining weight is the only risk of drinking too much soda and fruit juice? Think again. While sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are sources of empty calories, other ingredients like caffeine deserve attention too. Here’s a look at ingredients that require a second look before choosing soda or fruit juice for children.

Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup

Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and fruit juice are the largest source of added sugar in children’s diets, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children consume an average of 12-35 teaspoons of sugar a day in the form of sodas, fruit juice and sports drinks, according to a study by the American Heart Association. Increased sugar consumption has been linked to:

  • Weight gain. One in three children is overweight or obese.
  • Increased body fat. This increases the risk for type 2 diabetes as well as heart disease, because the hormone insulin, which pushes glucose in to the cell for energy, becomes ineffective.
  • Increased blood pressure. Excess sugar in the body makes the blood thick, forcing the heart work to harder to pump blood.

Caffeine

While there are no caffeine recommendations for children in the U.S., Canadian guidelines suggest limiting caffeine intake to 45 milligrams a day for children 4-6 years old and 85 mg a day for children 10-12 years old. A 12-ounce can of Coke contains 35 mg of caffeine, while a can of Diet Coke contains up to 47 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine, even in small amounts, can have the following effect on children:

  • Decreased attention span and concentration.
  • Increased irritability.
  • Increased fatigue (tiredness).
  • Increased urination. Caffeine makes the body lose water, which may contribute to dehydration in children who have less fluid storage than adults.

Tips for Cutting Back on Soda and Fruit Juice

  • When at home, offer water or low-fat milk with meals.
  • Offer lemonade made with fresh lemons and a teaspoon of sugar.
  • Make your own juice with fresh oranges or any seasonal fruit.
  • Have sparkling water by itself or add a small amount of fruit juice (1/4 cup for a glass of sparkling water).

— By Dharti Shah, Bastyr dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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