Sugary drinks tied to obesity in preschoolers
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of U.S. children ages 6 to 11 considered obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010.
And now, researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville found that even children as young as 4-years-old who drink even one sugary beverage a day are at risk of becoming obese.
According to the study, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, previous research into the link of sugary drinks to preschool obesity had been mixed.
However, this study, which involved 9,600 U.S. children between the ages of 2 and 5, definitively links the sugary beverages—such as soda, sports drinks and fruit drinks—to an increased risk of obesity, researchers said.
The results showed that the 5-year-olds were the most at risk. According to the study, those children who drank at least one sugary drink a day had an estimated 43 percent higher risk of obesity than their peers who avoided the sweet drinks. The study authors say parents should avoid giving their children the sugar-laden beverages daily.
Barbara Melendi, registered dietitian at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, agrees whole-heartedly.
“Parents need to be much more selective in the drinks they’re offering their kids,” Melendi says. “Even at 5 years old, this is the time to begin healthy habits for life.”
She recommends children drink water and milk, though even those servings should be monitored, as well, to make sure children aren’t too full to eat their regular meals.
“Another caution with sugary drinks is the damage that can be done to children’s teeth—even baby teeth,” Melendi says. “Again, setting habits early in life protects children throughout life.”
“The entire family needs to be engaged in the dietary changes that are essential to treating the child who is overweight or obese,” she says. “Everyone in the house needs make every effort to limit fast food, increase exercise and place a high value on healthy eating.”
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