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Sugary drink consumption is on the decline among children and teens

The findings are a step in the right direction for young people

Photo (c) Wittayayut - Getty Images
In an effort to help kids make healthier choices, legislators in cities across the country, including Philadelpia and Seattle, have implemented taxes on sugary drinks, while California representatives are trying to ban restaurants from serving kids sugary drinks. 

Though sugary drinks continue to be a favorite among kids, researchers are seeing the benefits of these taxes. Researchers have recently found that consumption of sugary drinks is on the decline for children and teens. 

Making healthier choices

The researchers utilized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) to determine how much sugar children and teens were consuming via drinks, analyzing responses from 2003 through 2014. 

While the survey included responses from over 15,000 kids and teens, the researchers were interested in assessing the decisions of recipients of the food assistance program SNAP -- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- with roughly 28 percent of the responses coming from kids utilizing SNAP. 

Though over 60 percent of all children were still consuming at least one sugary drink per day, the researchers found that overall, consumption of such beverages -- whether soda, juice, or sports drinks -- decreased among children between the ages of two and 19. 

As legislators are working to improve SNAP in an effort to improve consumers’ diets nationwide, the researchers found that kids who were involved in the program were drinking fewer sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) per day, and as a result, consuming fewer calories from such drinks. 

At the start of the study, over 84 percent of the children involved in SNAP were drinking at least one SSB per day. By the study’s end, that number dropped to under 76 percent. Similarly, SSB-fueled calories decreased from over 260 per day to just over 180 per day. 

While these numbers are trending in the right direction, kids started increasing their consumption of energy drinks or sports drinks over the course of the study. The researchers remain critical of the SNAP program and children’s SSB consumption in general. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that advances with SNAP, and more legislative efforts, can help kids make healthier choices in the future. 

“While our results confirm that efforts to decrease SSB consumption over the past decade have been successful, they also suggest that the continued surveillance of children’s SSB consumption by beverage type is important, given the consumption trends for sports/energy drinks and non-traditional SSBs like flavored milks,” said researcher Sara N. Bleich, PhD. “These trends could reduce or eliminate the past decades’ achievements limiting SSB consumption.” 

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