The nation’s children are consuming ever-greater amounts of soft drinks that could increase their risk for obesity and dental disease, caution the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
In their annual back-to-school wellness message, the two health organizations advise parents to encourage their children to consume nutritious drinks in school and at home.
More soft drinks consumed than milk
Children aged 6 – 19 years consume significantly more ounces of soft drinks each day than milk or juice, say the ADA and AAP. For example, teenage boys and girls are drinking twice as much soft drink as milk and a third of teenage boys drink at least three cans a day. Consumption of milk, which is the principle source of calcium in the typical American diet, decreases as soft drinks become a favorite choice for children.
Primary Source of Added Sugar
“Sweetened drinks are the primary source of added sugar in the daily diet of children. Each 12-ounce serving of a carbonated, sweetened soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar,” says Renee Jenkins, MD, FAAP, AAP vice president. “Not only should parents be discouraging their children from drinking soda, but they can set a good example by choosing to drink healthier alternatives themselves.”
Dentists have long recognized that good nutrition has a direct link to good oral health, according to Kimberly Harms, D.D.S., ADA consumer advisor.
“When teeth come in frequent contact with sweetened soft drinks and other sugar-containing substances, the risk of tooth decay, which is the most common childhood disease, is increased as is the potential for erosion of tooth enamel,” she explains. “Kids and teens are more susceptible to decay from soft drinks because their tooth enamel is not fully developed.”
Oppose Over-Consumption Influences in Schools
The two health organizations say school vending machines and some vendor contractual arrangements influence youth consumption patterns and increase soft drink access. The ADA and AAP oppose such arrangements that target children and promote over consumption of soft drinks.
What Can Kids Drink?
Pediatricians and dentists recommend children choose beverages that hydrate and contribute to good nutrition, such as fruit juice with no sweeteners, low-fat and non-fat white or flavored milk, vegetable juice and water.
Back-to-School Health Exams, Immunizations Encouraged
The ADA and AAP in promoting good health also encourage parents to make dental exams a regular part of their children's back-to-school routine, including completion of all health examinations and necessary immunizations in time for the new school year.
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