Want to help your teen shed his or her addiction to high-sugar drinks? A new study says that when adolescents are shown the calorie content, and how long they will have to vigorously exercise to burn off those calories, many teens decide to make a different choice as to what they drink.
The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health.
"Most consumers underestimate the number of calories in a can of soda, and they often do not realize that such calories can add up quickly," lead researcher Sara Bleich said in a press release about the study.
Researchers set up in a convenience store and used 3 methods to see if they could discourage teens from choosing drinks packed with sugar. In the first method they posted a sign that noted there are 250 calories in a typical bottle. The second sign noted that the bottle contains about 10% of an average teen’s daily-recommended calorie intake. The third sign told them that they would have to jog for about 50 minutes to burn off the calories.
The results were that all three methods discouraged teens from buying the sugary drinks by approximately 40%, but the third method had the biggest impact. When teens knew how much they would have to jog to burn off the calories, 50% chose water or diet soda instead of the high-sugar drinks.
The size of soda drinks has changed over the years. Most can drinks are 12 ounces, but bottled drinks are usually 20 ounces, with some being as large as 1 liter (34 oz.)
Super sized fountain drinks and “Gulp” drinks can be anywhere from 28 oz. to 55 oz. The 7-11 Double Gulp has 186 grams of sugar (almost a cup of sugar) and 744 calories! How does 3 hours of jogging to burn off those calories sound? Liquid candy is what some public health officials have labeled these soft drinks.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) looked at teens and high sugar drinks. CSPI’s analyses of 13- to 18-year-olds found that five percent of male soft-drink drinkers down about five or more cans a day and five percent of female drinkers consume more than three cans a day. That’s 80 percent more than 20 years ago. And, because kids are drinking more sweetened beverages than milk, they are getting too little calcium for growing teeth and bones, reports the CSPI. That's especially important for growing girls, who are at highest risk of osteoporosis.
For kids without a weight problem, one sweetened beverage per day -- as part of a well-balanced diet -- is fine, says Sarah Krieger, RD, LD, MPH, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "If children are maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and are active, one soda is OK."
The American Beverage Association agrees. "No single food or beverage is a unique contributor to obesity," says Tracey Halliday, a spokeswoman for the association. "Obesity is a serious and complex problem that is best addressed by living a balanced lifestyle -- consuming a variety of foods and beverages in moderation and getting regular physical activity. Quite simply, all calories count, regardless of the source."
If your child has a tendency to gain weight, however, it's best to keep these beverages out of the house. "Keep it for parties, since for most young kids that's about once a week," says Krieger, who is also lead instructor for children's weight management classes at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Also, limit other sweet drinks -- including 100% fruit juice. "Yes it's healthy, but it can have as many calories as a soda. One serving a day is OK, but that's all," she says.
There have been a lot of articles on teens and obesity. Some say too many. But the reason there is so much attention paid to obesity and children is not because of how children look- but because of the damage obesity can cause to a young person’s health. One third of all kids between the ages of 2 (yes 2) and 19 are overweight or obese. Young kids and teens are developing health problems that used to affect only adults, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type2 diabetes.
Helping your child or teen wean themselves off high-sugar drinks is a good start to improving their diet and health.
In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to require chain restaurants and retail food establishments - companies whose primary business is selling food - with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on their menus. The rule would also require calorie counts on vending machines. The calorie information would have to be "displayed clearly and prominently" and be listed per item or per serving,
The goal is to help people realize how many calories they are consuming so they can make better food and drink choices. It’s a good start towards a healthier lifestyle.