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Sugary Drinks Can Seriously Impact Health for Latino Preschoolers

By Cliff Despres

Sugary drinks are a rising threat to the health of Latino preschoolers.

Being Latino and drinking sugary beverages at least once in the past week were associated with 2.3 times the odds of severe obesity in kindergarten, which can lead to obesity-related diseases, according to a study.

The study is part of a research review, Sugary Drinks and Latino Kids, released today by Salud America!, an obesity prevention network at UT Health San Antonio, and Bridging the Gap, an obesity research team at the University of Illinois.

“We have to work together to do more to reduce sugar consumption and help kids grow up at a healthy weight, well before they ever enter kindergarten,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! and the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.

What the Research Says about Latino Kids and Sugary Drinks

sugary drinks latino kids dataThe new research review by Salud America! and Bridging the Gap shows Latino kids consume more sugary drinks than non-Latino kids at all ages.

  • Latino infants were twice as likely to be fed sugary drinks than their non-Latino peers.
  • 74% of Latino kids have had a sugary drink by age 2 (vs. 45% of white kids).
  • Latinos are highly exposed to marketing by beverage companies.
  • Mexican-American kids consume less plain water than white kids.

The American Heart Association urges no foods or drinks with added sugars, including sugary drinks, for children younger than age 2, and less than six teaspoons of added sugars a day for children 2-18.

Latino kids ages 2-4 who didn’t consume sugary drinks were 31% less likely to be obese than those with a high intake of sugary drinks, according to a study.

“Lessening children’s consumption of sugar in these early years would help decrease their risk of developing unhealthy weight, diabetes, and heart disease,” Ramirez said.

What Can be Done to Reduce Sugary Drink Consumption?

sugary drinks and Latino kids pricingThe new research review highlights several policy and systems changes that are working, as well as some recommendations:

  • Stronger restrictions on sugary drink marketing to kids are likely to be necessary to achieve significant reductions in exposure to advertising and promotions.
  • Increasing the prices of sugary drinks reduces consumption and, ultimately, could improve health. Sugary drink pricing initiatives are in place in Berkeley, Calif., will go into effect in January in Philadelphia, and were approved in five other localities in California, Colorado, and Illinois in November 2016.
  • Few early childcare centers report serving sugary drinks to kids ages 0-5, but increased regulation can reduce serving of sugary drinks and increase promotion of water. Early childcare centers should adopt best practices from the revised Child and Adult Care Food Program guidelines (promoting water and avoiding serving sugary drinks).
  • When New York elementary and middle schools replaced vending machines with water jets, students’ likelihood of being overweight dropped more than 0.6 percentage points.

“There are many strategies bubbling up to really promote water, which is the healthiest drink option available to Latino and all kids,” Ramirez said.

To find out what you can do to help, visit Salud America! to find resources, policies happening in your area, and read and watch how people are driving change.

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