The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association have just come together to issue a joint statement on sugary drinks and children.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since the 1970s. What’s to blame? While there are several elements in play, one major factor is sugary drinks. Data show that kids and teens now consume 17 percent of their calories from added sugars—nearly half of which comes from drinks alone. To help combat the the impact of sugary drinks the AAP and AHA have issued several new recommendations.

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“For children, the biggest source of added sugars often is not what they eat, it’s what they drink,” said pediatrician Natalie D. Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement. “On average, children are consuming over 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year. This is enough to fill a bathtub, and it doesn’t even include added sugars from food. As a pediatrician, I am concerned that these sweetened drinks pose real—and preventable—risks to our children’s health, including tooth decay, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. We need broad public policy solutions to reduce children’s access to cheap sugary drinks.”

The AAP and AHA recommendations include:

  • Raising the price of sugary drinks, such as via an excise tax, with tax money going toward reducing health and socioeconomic disparities.
  • A decrease in sugary drink marketing to kids and teens supported by the state and federal government.
  • Healthy drinks such as water and milk should be the default beverages on children’s menus and in vending machines,
  • Families should have access to credible nutrition information, including on nutrition labels, restaurant menus and ads.
  • Hospitals should serve as a model and establish policies to limit or discourage purchase of sugary drinks.

“As a nation we have to say ‘no’ to the onslaught of marketing of sugary drinks to our children,” said Rachel K. Johnson, PhD, RD, professor emeritus of nutrition at University of Vermont and former Chair of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee. “We know what works to protect kids’ health and it’s time we put effective policies in place that bring down rates of sugary drink consumption just like we’ve done with tobacco.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin

 

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