The fact that sugary foods are associated with piling on some extra pounds, and even an increased risk of suffering from obesity, is probably common knowledge now, but it’s not just you, your 5-year old too, may be at a risk of getting obese following an increased intake of sports drinks, juices, sodas and other artificially-sweetened sugary drinks.
A research team from the University of Virginia, in their recent study, has shed light on how sugary drinks could be causing obesity in preschool kids. Up until now, the link between an increased sugar intake was more evident and probably limited to teens and adults, and not younger children.
This new study however, has clearly linked the increased intake of sugary drinks to a higher body mass intake in kids between 4 and 5 years of age. “Even though sugar-sweetened beverages are relatively a small percentage of the calories that children take in, that additional amount of calories did contribute to more weight gain over time,” lead author of the study, Dr. Mark DeBoer, explained.
The researchers interviewed the parents of 9,600 kids, all of them born in the year 2001, when they were two, four and five years of age regarding their income, education and how often their kids consumed sugary drinks and watched TV. The weight of the kids and their mothers was recorded at every visit.
Statistics revealed that around 9 to 13 percent of the kids taken in for the study had consumed atleast one sugary drink a day. Also, these kids were more likely to watch atleast 2 hours of TV every day, and the mothers of these kids were more likely to be overweight.
The researchers also found that the five year olds who had atleast one sugary drink a day, were at a 43 percent increased risk of being obese than those who consumed the beverages less frequently.
The study also found that around 15 percent of the five year olds taken in for the study itself, were obese.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity is observed when the body mass index; a weight-height proportionality, is above the 95th percentile for the age and the gender of the individual.
“This is really just adding to the evidence we already know that (drinking) sugar-sweetened beverages in childhood is associated with weight gain. It’s definitely one of the major, if not the main, driver in childhood obesity,” Dr Y Claire Wang, a specialist in childhood nutrition and obesity at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, said, not surprised by the findings. Parents must consider the seriousness of allowing their kids to consume sugary drinks so frequently.
“It’s not to say that you’re going to ban all these sugary things … from people’s childhoods,” she added. “It’s just they’re supposed to be very rare treats.”
Obesity has always been an issue of concern worldwide, and with toddlers at a risk of getting affected too, some huge steps need to be taken. Public awareness could play an important role in educating parents to avoid getting sugary drinks for their kids and look for healthier alternatives such as milk and naturally sweetened drinks.
By: Enozia Vakil