Policies to Reduce Kids’ Consumption of Sugary Drinks

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Leading health organizations call for excise taxes and limits on marketing to children, among other measures; the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Heart Association (AHA) cite strong evidence of association between added sugars and increased risk of heart disease and other long-term health problems.

In a joint policy statement, the AAP and the AHA endorsed a suite of public health measures—including excise taxes, limits on marketing to children, and financial incentives for purchasing healthier beverages—designed to reduce kids’ consumption of sugary drinks. The policy statement, Public Policies to Reduce Sugary Drink Consumption in Children and Adolescents, was published in the April 2019 issue of Pediatrics.

Children and teens consume gallons of sugary drinks every year, including sports drinks, fruit-flavored drinks and sodas. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and teens consume fewer than 10 percent of calories from added sugars. But data show that children and teens now consume 17 percent of their calories from added sugars—nearly half of which comes from drinks alone.

“For children, the biggest source of added sugars often is not what they eat, it’s what they drink,” said pediatrician Natalie D. Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement. “On average, children are consuming over 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year. This is enough to fill a bathtub, and it doesn’t even include added sugars from food. As a pediatrician, I am concerned that these sweetened drinks pose real – and preventable – risks to our children’s health, including tooth decay, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. We need broad public policy solutions to reduce children’s access to cheap sugary drinks.”

The AAP and AHA recommend:

  • Local, state and national policymakers should consider raising the price of sugary drinks, such as via an excise tax, along with an accompanying educational campaign. Tax revenues should go in part toward reducing health and socioeconomic disparities.
  • Federal and state governments should support efforts to decrease sugary drink marketing to children and teens.
  • Healthy drinks such as water and milk should be the default beverages on children’s menus and in vending machines, and federal nutrition assistance programs should ensure access to healthy food and beverages and discourage consumption of sugary drinks.
  • Children, adolescents, and their families should have ready access to credible nutrition information, including on nutrition labels, restaurant menus, and advertisements.
  • Hospitals should serve as a model and establish policies to limit or discourage purchase of sugary drinks.

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Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

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