COMMENTARY

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Kids: AHA and AAP Take Action

Kyle E. Yasuda, MD, FAAP

Disclosures

March 25, 2019

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hi. I'm Kyle Yasuda, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. I'm not going to sugarcoat this: Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity are on the rise in kids. Drinking sugary beverages is contributing to this epidemic.

Back in the '90s, I had a 13-year-old boy in my practice who was drinking 2 L of soda a day. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. As a 13-year-old! This was the first case of diabetes I had seen in my practice, and it made a lasting impression on me about the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages on a child's health.

Children in the United States are consuming more added sugar than is healthy or recommended. The number-one source of added sugars in the diet of American children continues to be sugary beverages. The American Heart Association recommends that children age 2 years and older have no more than 8 oz of sugary drinks a week. But kids are consuming 10 times that amount.

In fact, the average American adult and child consumes 34 pounds of added sugar a year from sugary drinks alone. That's a whole wheelbarrow full! It's time we act.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association have released a joint statement calling for broad public-policy solutions to reduce children's consumption of sugary beverages. These solutions include making healthier options more available and less expensive, and placing a tax on sugary drinks, with the revenues going to subsidize healthy alternatives like water, milk, fruits, and vegetables.

We also recommend using warning labels and placing restrictions on marketing to kids. Children are surrounded by ads promoting unhealthy, sweetened beverages. In fact, the soda industry is using the same strategy that Big Tobacco once used to target teens and young adults. In 2009, carbonated beverage companies reported $395 million in youth-directed expenditures, mainly directed at teens.

Families work hard to make the best choices they can, but this kind of environment does not make it easy.

Let's help families and communities create a healthier environment for our nation's youth by looking at public health solutions—like we did with tobacco—to lower our children's sugar intake and improve their health, now and in the future.

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