Pediatricians Call For Soda Taxes To Curb Children's Love Of Sugary Drinks

Two health organizations make policy recommendations on how to reduce kids’ consumption of sugary drinks

Within its list of suggestions, the groups are proposing that regulators increase the price of certain drinks by imposing an excise tax.

The American Academy of Pediatrics along with the American Heart Association say there needs to be limits on sugary drinks.

“For children, the biggest source of added sugars often is not what they eat, its what they drink, ” said pediatrician Natalie D. Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement.

"They can reduce their own sugary drink intake, they can encourage older siblings to reduce their intake to be a better role model for younger children, and they can raise awareness and offer water and milk as primary beverages", said Maa.

High rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic health conditions have doctors supporting local, state and national policies on reducing the amount of sugary beverages that kids drink.

The groups are calling on lawmakers to find ways to reduce the amount of exposure children have to sugary beverages.

"We know from the example of Berkeley, CA, the first USA city to implement such a tax, and Mexico's country-wide tax, that this approach works". That's significantly above guidelines recommending children and teens get 10 percent or less of their calories from added sugars.

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One of the AHA and AAP's strongest recommendations is to introduce taxes on drinks with high sugar content, a move that has already shown success in several cities across the USA and other countries. Almost half of those are coming from drinks alone, with children consuming an average of 30 gallons of sugary drinks annually. 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.

While consumption of sugary drinks has declined in the USA, kids and teens still consume about 150 calories a day, on average, from them.

For parents and families who want to start limiting sugary drink intake, Carbonari said they can gradually start introducing healthier beverages. Similarly, revenue from a 1.75 cent-per-ounce tax in Seattle funds programs that help low-income people buy healthy food, as well as subsidies to schools and childcare centers to increase servings of fruits and vegetables.

Researchers reviewed data from two long-term, large-scale studies - one involving almost 38,000 men and another that followed more than 80,000 women - and found that those who consumed one to two sugary drinks per day increased their overall risk of death by 14 percent.

Other cities that have passed such taxes, including Albany and Oakland, California, as well as Boulder, Colorado are also funding public health prevention programs.

Teens who drink more than 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugars are more likely to have abnormal cholesterol levels, including higher “bad” LDL cholesterol, higher triglycerides, and lower heart-protective HDL cholesterol, Dr. Muth said. Further, milk and water should be made the default options on kids' menus and sugar contents should be included on nutrition fact panels and menus.

What sort of health issues are being diagnosed in children? "If we can dot his together, we'll improve the long-term health of our nation's children", said Dr. Muth.

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