Black children and teens in the U.S. are almost
twice as likely as their white peers to consume more than 500 calories a
day of sugary beverages, according to a new study.
The results, which found a three-fold surge
in the overall number of teens drinking sugar-spiked sports energy
drinks, should inform policy, the authors said.
"Some groups may be more at risk for soda,
others may be more at risk for fruit drinks, all of which ... have the
same sugar base that contributes to obesity and disease," said study
co-author Lisa Powell, of the University of Illinois at Chicago Health
Black children, the study in the Journal of
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also found, are more than twice
as likely as whites on any given day to consume fruit drinks containing
little actual fruit. Fruit juices, for example, range from 100 percent
actual fruit juice to those with as little as 10 percent fruit juice and
plenty of added sugars, Powell said.
Using surveys from 1999 to 2008 of what
roughly 40,000 children, teens and adults drank during a single 24-hour
period, the researchers also found an increase from 4 percent to 12
percent in the number of teens imbibing sports drinks.
The study also found that while drinking of
at least 500 calories per day of sugar-sweetened beverages — considered
"heavy consumption" — fell from 22 percent to 16 percent among teens,
and from 29 percent to 20 percent among young adults, the rate rose from
4 percent to 5 percent among 2- to 11-year-olds.
Except for children, who are more likely to
consume fruit drinks, soda is the most widely consumed sugared beverage
across the age span. Black children, however, are half as likely as
their white peers to choose soda.
And low-income children of all races drank almost twice as many sugary beverages as wealthier kids, the study found.
The study did not investigate the reasons
why. Powell said that "cultural norms, what a particular household grew
up doing," may be a factor, as well as cost.
Her research builds on prior studies showing
that people are drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages overall. For
example, the number of teens consuming sugary drinks dropped from 87
percent to 77 percent, Powell said.
And it comes on the heels of last year's
passage of a landmark New York City ban on restaurant, concession, and
other venue sales of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.
The controversial law, designed to drive sugary drink consumption down further, might miss some nuances, Powell said.
"If you develop a policy that only looks at
soda in schools or a possible tax on sodas, you're going to miss out,"
Powell continued. "If health promotion is our objective, it's important
to understand the different patterns and how some people are
substituting one drink for another across those patterns, and to target
advertising and related efforts to those people."
The other concern is a "troubling
replacement effect," said David Dausey, public health department chair
of the Mercyhurst College Institute of Public Health in Erie,
"We're cutting back on canned sodas in
schools but the [beverage] industry says, 'Fine, we'll put in a fruit
drink machine,' which, in many ways, is exchanging one evil for
another," said Dausey, who was not involved in the new study.
The American Beverage Association said the new study does not "paint the full picture."
"Sugar-sweetened beverages are playing a
small and declining role in the American diet" and are not the primary
drivers of obesity, a spokesperson said by email.
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