U.S. teens may be drinking more sugary beverages than ever before, but younger kids in California are cutting back.
A report from the California Center for Public Health Advocacy found that children under age 12 in the state drank fewer sodas and sports drinks in 2011 to 2012 than they did in 2005 to 2007.
The findings, based on interviews conducted in over 40,000 homes by the California Health Interview Survey, revealed that among children aged 6 to 11, 32% reported consuming sugared drinks daily in 2011 to 2012, compared with 43% who did so in 2005 to 2007. For kids ages 2 to 5, the rate fell to 19% from 27% in the same time period. But among those ages 12 to 17, 65% said they consumed at least one sugar-sweetened beverage a day, an increase from 60% in 2005 to 2007. And these adolescents were drinking 23% more sports drinks than in 2005 to 2007.
How did California youngsters cut back on their sugared drinks? An attempt to pass a soda tax in the state failed, so it wasn’t that the beverages cost more. The study authors interpret the decline as a sign that parents are starting to make healthier choices for their younger children, while teens, who tend to make their own choices about what to eat and drink, continued to opt for sweeter options. Adolescents probably also chose sports drinks thinking that they were healthy and good sources of nutrients, when in fact they are typically high in sugar. (And most teens don’t exercise enough to need the energy and nutrient replenishment that sports drinks provide.)
Public-health groups say the trend is encouraging, and that it hints that messaging about the unhealthy effects of sugared drinks may finally be catching on. So campaigns that not only educate families about the dangers of these beverages, but offer alternatives such as water and low-fat milk, are also worth pursuing.