The Sugar-Sweetened Beverage and Childhood Obesity Connection

Reviewing consumption trends of sugar-sweetened beverages and their role in increasing obesity

In 2006, researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health produced two reports and three articles on the relation between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity in children:

  • Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Children's Health, a review of trends in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among U.S. children and the scientific evidence about the effect of such consumption on their health.
  • Policies Affecting Access to Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Schools: A Legal and Regulatory Review that looked at policies in all 50 states.

Key Findings: The two reports, written for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) state:

  • Children's calorie intake from sugar-sweetened beverages has doubled since the mid-1970s, with children in 2001 ingesting more than 10 percent of their total daily calories from sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Some 34 states—through legislation, regulation or a combination thereof—have created a state policy that required or recommended that schools adopt beverage standards more stringent than those set by the federal National School Lunch Program.

Recommendations:

  • Children should consume mostly water and other unsweetened beverages, such as herbal tea and sodium-free seltzer water (with or without natural fruit flavoring). Other alternatives include skim or low-fat milk and 100 percent fruit juice diluted with water.

Afterward: The three articles, published after the grant, appeared in the June 2, 2008, issue of Pediatrics, the Journal of the American Medical Association (June 27, 2008) and the American Journal of Public Health (April 2008). RWJF posted an abstract of the Pediatrics article on its website.