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No top-selling sweetened children’s drinks meet expert recommendations

By Dental Tribune International
October 28, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.: In a recent study, researchers from Saint Louis University (SLU) and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut (UConn) found that, in 2018, sweetened drinks accounted for 62% of sales of children’s drinks. The researchers noted that none of the 34 top-selling sweetened children’s drinks met expert recommendations for healthier drinks for children.

The impact of sugar on oral health and overall health is still hotly debated, and this new report may well add a little more fuel to the fire, particularly when it comes to advertising. “Beverage companies have said they want to be part of the solution to childhood obesity, but they continue to market sugar-sweetened children’s drinks directly to young children on TV and through packages designed to get their attention in the store,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Harris, lead author and the Rudd Center’s Director of Marketing Initiatives.

In the report, the researchers stated that companies spent $20.7 million on advertising children’s drinks with added sugars in 2018, primarily to children under age 12. In addition to the advertisements, the team from UConn said that packaging and some of the claims on packaging make it extremely difficult for parents to know what a healthy option might be. “You shouldn’t have to be a nutritionist to figure out whether or not a product is healthy for your child,” said contributing author and assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at SLU Dr. Maria Romo-Palafox.

Earlier in September, a consensus statement on healthy beverages for children was released by a group of leading medical and nutrition organizations that included the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. The statement recommended that children under age 5 should not consume any drinks with added sugar or low-calorie sweeteners, and that they should consume limited amounts of 100% juice. Improvements have been made: More companies sell unsweetened juice–water blends, and licensed characters only appear on children’s drinks without added sweeteners. However, it may still be some time before more significant gains are made.

The report, titled "Children’s Drink FACTS 2019: Sales, Nutrition, and Marketing of Children’s Drinks," was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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