- Kids chug an estimated 270 calories per day from sugary drinks, which accounts for anywhere from 15 to 25 per cent of the daily recommended amount for children
- Sweet drinks are a major factor to rising childhood obesity rates – which have tripled since 1980
- Health officials estimate 17 per cent of U.S children (12.5 million) are obese
- Beverage lobby hits back, saying sugary drinks are not the only contributing factor to obesity
The average American child consumes nearly 300 calories from liquid sugar alone each day – a combined total of 7 trillion calories each year, a public health professor suggests.
Dr Steven Gortmaker, Director of the Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center, is sounding the alarm and pushing for increased government involvement to keep sodas and sugary drinks away from kids, as part of his presentation at the Obesity Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting in San Antonio, Texas on September 23.
The sweet drinks are increasingly a poison to younger Americans, aged two to 19 – a population of an estimated 73.5 million, as they contribute to the ever-growing childhood obesity rates in the U.S.
Young people chug an estimated 270 calories per day due to sugary drinks, accounting for over 19 billion calories a day nationwide.
Calorie recommendation for children (depending on age and gender) range from 1,200 to 2,200, so calories from sugary beverages, on average, accounts from anywhere from 15 to 25 per cent of their daily recommended allotment.
Sales of drinks for these mini-consumers totaled an estimated $24 billion in sales, according to Scientific America.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 17 per cent of American youth (or 12.5 million) are obese.
Gortmake’s presentation in Texas comes on the heels of extensive research in the September issue of the New England Journal of Medicine on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on childhood obesity rates.
‘During the past 30 years, the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has increased dramatically. Compelling evidence supports a positive link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and the risk of obesity,’ the authors of the academic paper, Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Genetic Risk of Obesity, wrote.
Dr Gortmaker has supported a Boston-area initiative to ban the sale of sodas at public schools, which was adopted in 2004, and he is calling for broader initiatives to be implemented across the country.
‘Populations in the U.S. drink tons of sugary sweetened beverage. The average high school student actually drinks more than 300 calories of sugar water every day,’ the Harvard professor said at a press conference in October 2011, on behalf of a campaign to curb access to sweet drinks.
He said with fewer sugary options available at Boston schools, ‘kids reduced overall consumption per day by 45 calories.’
’45 calories a day is just the level you need to start flattening out the obesity epidemic, if not to start turning it around,’ he added.
Obesity rates: For children aged 2-19 in the U.S., obesity rates are highest among boys
But the beverage lobby was quick to respond that sugary drinks cannot bear all the blame for obesity in the U.S.
‘Obesity is a serious and complex public health issue facing our nation and the rest of the world, and we all must work together to solve it,’ the American Beverage Association said in a statement.
‘We know, and science supports, that obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverage. Thus, studies and opinion pieces that focus solely on sugar-sweetened beverages, or any other single source of calories, do nothing meaningful to help address this serious issue,’ the statement added.
Pint-sized guzzlers: Young people chug an estimated 270 calories per day due to sugary drinks, accounting for over 19 billion calories a day nationwide
The childhood obesity epidemic is different from children simply being overweight.
According to the CDC, being overweight means having an excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.
Obesity is defined specifically as having excess body fat.
Growing obesity rates among children has increasingly gained attention with First Lady Michelle Obama launching an initiative to promote healthy eating and exercise – while also lobbying for healthier school lunch options and companies to stop advertising junk food to children.
Similarly, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently introduced a measure to ban the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces, as a means to fight obesity in the Big Apple.
But the ban, which was approved by the New York City Board of Health in September, has been met with disdain and irked the beverage lobby, who call it a violation of consumer rights.
Big Apple soda ban: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently introduced a measure to ban the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces