Preschoolers who are already on the heavy side and drink one to two sweet drinks a day might be at greater risk of becoming obese. Some of these sweet drinks include Kool-Aid with sugar and all-natural apple juice. This finding might come as a surprise to parents who make a point of buying fruit drinks without added sugars for their children.
Nutritionists and the new U.S. dietary guidelines both agree on the same recommendation: It is better to eat whole fresh fruit than to consume fruit juice.
Research revealed that 3- and 4-year-olds who carried extra weight and consumed one to two sweet drinks a day were at double the risk of becoming seriously overweight one year later.
In order to study the effects of sweet drinks researchers followed over 10,000 Missouri children who were divided into three groups: normal and underweight, those at risk of becoming overweight and those who were already overweight.
Some of the components of the study included comparing children's heights and weights and parents' reports of what their children ate and drank over the course of a four-week period.
The study uncovered a link between sweet drinks and being overweight among all three weight categories of the participants, however the statistics weren't as significant for those children who fell into the normal and underweight category.
Other factors such as ethnicity, birth weight and high-fat diets didn't change any of the effects of sweet drinks.
Unsweetened Solutions From the Experts
One Chicago Head Start program banned juice last year as a way to fight the obesity epidemic
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended limiting preschoolers to 4 to 6 ounces of juice per day
One preschool, based on recommendations from a community nurse, added more fruits and vegetables to meals and more exercise to the daily schedule
Nutritionists believe the reason behind sweet drinks causing weight gain is that sweet drinks are calorie-dense, low-fiber foods that might trigger overeating. They also reported that these types of foods are quickly consumed but less filling than foods that contain high amounts of fiber.
The Vice President at the American Beverage Association was skeptical of the study results because it left out factors such as television viewing, overweight parents and children's activity levels.
Pediatrics February 2005;115(2):e223-e229 (Free Full-Text Article)
An article I ran previously found that the average sugar consumption for 4- and 5-year-olds was 17 teaspoons a day. What most parents may not realize is that fruit juice has about eight full teaspoons of sugar. This sugar is from a fruit sugar called fructose, which can be every bit as dangerous as regular table sugar since it will also cause a major increase in insulin levels.
Orange juice, which is commonly marketed as a healthy drink, is not any better for you or your children as it is frequently contaminated with mold from damaged fruit that are processed. So if you drink commercial orange juice regularly there is a high probability that you will be exposed to these mold toxins.
For those of you who have children who are already heavy fruit juice drinkers, here's a practical tip for weaning kids off it, or at least keeping consumption to a minimum: DILUTE the juice with water. If a child is already a juice drinker, start slowly by diluting slightly, and keep increasing the water content over time.
I am not advocating that one should avoid all fruit (unless on struggles with yeast or Candida), just fruit juice. One thing to keep in mind: The starch-derived (corn) fructose used to sweeten soft drinks and all kinds of processed foods is refined, man-made and metabolically different than the natural kind already in fruit. That's why your body converts the starch-derived fructose in processed foods to brown adipose tissue and trigylcerides that contribute to diabetes, hypoglycemia, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
On the other hand, fruit fructose, along with all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, water, other mono-, di- and olgio-saccharides and fiber found in fruit, are converted to blood glucose.
Childhood obesity rates are on the rise. The World Health Organization reports that more than 22 million children under 5 years old are obese or overweight. With skyrocketing numbers like these it seems that making a point to cut sweet drinks out of your child's diet is one simple yet powerful way of reducing their chances of becoming obese.
Dr. Ben Lerner and I will be writing a book later this year about the obesity problem and will offer some very specific practical guidelines that should have a major impact on this epidemic.
Until the book comes out I have four additional recommendations to putting your child on the road to lifelong optimal health:
Determine your child's nutritional type with our free online nutritional typing test and prepare your family's meals accordingly.
Encourage your child to exercise for at least 30 minutes daily--think fun activities that you can do as a family like bike riding, hiking or sports.
Turn off the television, not only in favor of more physical activities but also to reduce your kid's exposure to junk food ads.
Switch soda and other sugary drinks to water flavored with lemon and lime--each daily soda increases obesity risk 60 percent!