Sweet Drinks and Obesity
The consumption of sweetened drinks -- including soda, juice and other beverages such as Kool-Aid and sports drinks -- has been on the rise in the past decades. At the same time, the prevalence of obesity in children also has risen.
Don't drink your calories. Soda, fruit juice (even 100 percent juice), whole or 2 percent milk, sports drinks, Kool-Aid and other sweetened beverages all contain a lot of calories. What's worse, they do little to fill you up and provide little or no nutritional benefit.
You may not know that . . .
A 12-ounce glass of orange juice contains 180 calories, which is the same as eating three chocolate-chip cookies.
Drinking just one 12-ounce can of soda every day for a year is equal to 55,000 calories or 15 pounds a year.
Juice -- Not as Healthy as Fruit
Many people think of juice as an essential part of a child's diet. However, juice isn't as healthy as people think.
Drinking a lot of juice makes younger children feel full quickly. Feeling full from juice will decrease the amount of food a child eats. For older children, drinking a lot of juice doesn't usually cause fullness and the excess calories from juice can result in weight gain.
It's much healthier to eat the fruit rather than drink the juice. For example, a 12-ounce glass of orange juice, which is the juice of two to three oranges, has about 180 calories . But eating one orange is only 80 or 90 calories and it does more to fill you up.
For children who are overweight, the basic recommendation is no juice.
Sodas -- Liquid Sugar
Sodas and other sweetened drinks are full of sugar such as high-fructose corn syrup. Many sodas also contain caffeine, which is a diuretic that can cause dehydration. Another problem with sweetened beverages is that the body doesn't register it's full after drinking hundreds of calories. This may have to do with ghrelin, the hormone in your stomach that lets you know when you're hungry. When the hormone increases, you are hungry. When you eat, the hormone goes down. However, it only works with food, not liquid. Drinking soda, juice, sports drinks and other sugar-sweetened liquids does nothing for your hunger, even if you consume hundreds of calories. As a result, sugar-sweetened beverages are often wasted calories.
In other words, the human digestive system is not designed for drinking calories. Soda is a relatively recent addition to the human diet. Soda was introduced in the second half of the 19th century and there was not an obesity problem until the 20th century. When looking at obesity in the United States alongside fructose and soft drink consumption, they are on a parallel line.
How Bad Is Soda Really?
To fully understand the impact of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, consider how the extra calories from these drinks translates into pounds. Remember that 1 pound of fat equals 3,500 calories.
If a child drinks one soda and two glasses of Kool-Aid each day, they are consuming roughly:
150 calories for the glass of soda
240 calories for two glass of Kool-Aid (120 calories each glass)
TOTAL: 390 calories a day
The one soda and two glasses of Kool-Aid equals 390 calories each day.
If a child drinks one soda and two glasses of Kool-Aid each day for one year, they're consuming:
142,000 calories a year
390 calories a day for 365 days in a year = 142,000 calories
Since 1 pound equals 3,500 calories:
142,000 calories at 3,500 calories per pound = 40 pounds
That means 142,000 calories over a year is 40 pounds of weight a year.
What seemed like a harmless glass of soda and two glasses of Kool-Aid a day is equal to roughly 40 pounds of weight gain over a year. Children rarely burn all of these extra calories through exercise and activity. Even if a child only has one soda a day, it leads to 15.6 pounds of weight a year.
What Can You Do?
The best thing for children and their parents is to limit or eliminate drinking juice, soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
Instead of soda, juice and other sweetened beverages, your child should drink water. Water has everything you need and nothing you don't. The benefits of water include the following:
- Quenches your thirst
- Has no added sodium to make you thirstier
- Has zero calories
In addition to water, children can drink nonfat milk and beverages with little or no sodium and five or less calories per serving, such as:
- Sparkling water, without sugar added
- Diet soda and low-calorie beverages like Crystal Light consumed occasionally as a treat
Remember, children should consume two to four servings of calcium-rich foods a day like non-fat or 1 percent milk.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Children's Hospital.
Last updated May 8, 2007
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.
Reprinted with permission. Copyright © 2002 - 2009 The Regents of the University of California
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