Supplemental Report On Food And Nutrition: Harmful Health Effects Of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

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We are a nation that values convenience and speed – and all too often that means a junk food diet (food that is high in fat, added sugar, sodium and empty calories.) And, sadly, this lifestyle is easily passed on to our children. For instance: the daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) and fast food has increased alarmingly among children and adolescents, over the past three decades. In a 2009 research study on The Negative Impact of Sugar-sweetened Beverages on Children’s Health, conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it is noted that as children increase their intake of SSB, they typically decrease their consumption of milk, resulting in a reduction of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, folate and vitamin A.

According to the study, the health implications of ingesting SSB – which include (but are not limited to) sodas, fruit drinks, and sports/energy drinks – have been linked to tooth decay, anxiety, lack of sleep, weight gain/obesity, decreased bone mineral density, and type 2 diabetes. According to a recent policy report issued by the New England Journal of Medicine, the health risks posed by regular consumption of SSB provides a compelling argument for aggressive strategies to reduce the intake of such beverages. One suggestion was imposing a tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages to discourage overall consumption and promote good nutrition. Education is, of course, fundamental for children and their families to recognize the value of good nutrition and the positive impact that healthy choices have on their lives.

Stefania Patinella, Director of Food & Nutrition Programs at The Children’s Aid Society says:

“At The Children’s Aid Society, we are engaged in just such an education campaign through our Go!Healthy intiative, which teaches children and parents about wellness and the joys of healthful cooking and eating. Our programs give families the tools to make informed decisions about what they eat and drink so they can be “conscious consumers.” In one activity, youth are astonished when they measure how much sugar is in their foods and beverages, like sodas, juice drinks and cereals. In another, they learn about the marketing tricks companies use to convince consumers that products are healthy when they’re not—such as pictures of fruit or words such as “natural.” Parents and youth alike learn what too much sugar means for their health, mood, and concentration, as well as its relationship to Type 2 diabetes, a disease that is devastating many low-income families and communities. Of course, to keep every class positive and fun, we include hands-on cooking activities that empower children and parents to make healthy, homemade meals part of their daily lives. With every meal, we serve water…and for special occasions, homemade “soda”: equal parts seltzer and 100% fruit juice, with fresh fruit as a garnish!”