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Sugary Beverages Lead to Obesity in Preschoolers

Update Date: Aug 05, 2013 09:41 AM EDT

Obesity has become a worldwide pandemic, putting pressure on countries to revise their health care systems to provide for and prevent future cases. Due to numerous studies, people know that maintaining a healthy diet and an active physical life are key to staving off obesity. These methods have mostly been geared towards adults who have more control over their lifestyles. However, since obesity has become a growing problem for children and young adults, getting this age group to starting caring for their bodies is extremely important as well. One of the latest obesity studies that was published today remind parents that sugary drinks for preschoolers leads to obesity.

"Even though sugar-sweetened beverages are relatively a small percentage of the calories that children take in, that additional amount of calories did contribute to more weight gain over time," the lead investigator, Dr. Mark DeBoer from University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said according to FOX News.

For this study, DeBoer and his colleagues administered surveys to a nationally representative group consisting of 9,600 children who were all born in 2001. The surveys were conducted when the children were aged two, four and five. The survey measured the parents' income, education, hours spent in front of a television and amount of sugary beverages their children drank. The researchers weighed mother and child every time the participants came in for a survey visit.

The researchers reported that around nine to 13 percent of children consumed at least a sugary drink, which included soda, sports drinks or sugar-sweetened juices, every day. Within this proportion, the researchers calculated that these toddlers watched at least two hours of TV when they were four or five-years-old. These children were also more likely to have an overweight mother. Studies have reported that children of obese parents are more likely to be obese themselves, creating a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped.

The researcher also reported that preschoolers, who are five-years-old, were 43 percent more likely to be obese if they drank at least one sugary beverage a day in comparison to children who did not drink sweet beverages or did so at a less frequent rate. Childhood obesity was measured by taking the toddlers' body mass index (BMI), which measures weight in relation to height. A BMI that sits above the 95th percentile relative to age and gender would be considered obese. The researchers calculated that 15 percent of the five-year-olds fit that category. The researchers reported that for four-year-olds, the link between sugary drinks and obesity also existed. However, for toddlers at the age of two, there was no relationship.

Even though the researchers did not measure the children's overall diet and exercise level, the relationship between sweetened drinks and obesity is quite clear. They hope that their study's findings will prompt parents to become more aware of the risk factors involved when it comes to what they are giving their children to eat and drink.

The study was published in Pediatrics

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