Washington, June 3 : A new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health has shown that kids and teens in the U.S. are now getting more of their calories from fruit juice and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).
Adolescents who take SSBs - which include sodas, fruit drinks and punches, and sports drinks - consume an average of 356 calories per day, a significant increase from 10 years earlier.
The findings suggest that decreasing empty caloric intake by limiting these drinks might be a, effective way for promoting healthy eating and preventing excess weight gain.
After comparing data from two time periods, 1988-1994 and 1999-2004, researchers found that over-consumption of sugary beverages is widespread, with 84 percent of teens consuming SSBs on a typical day.
A male teenager who consumes the average amount of SSBs per day would need to jog for an hour or walk for more than three hours to burn off these excess calories.
Researchers also found that the number of SSB calories consumed by children ages two to five and six to 11 increased from the previous decade.
The study particularly showed that kids aged six to 11 consumed 20 percent more calories from sugar-sweetened beverages in 1999-2004 as compared with the 1988 to 1994 period.
Researchers also found a more rapid rise in SSB calorie consumption among Black and Mexican American youth.
Growing evidence indicates that sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in children and teens may have contributed to rising obesity rates in the United States.
"These findings highlight an alarming trend in sugary beverage consumption and should be a major concern for parents and policy-makers worried about the childhood obesity epidemic," said Y. Claire Wang, MD, ScD, assistant professor of Health Policy and Management at the Mailman School of Public Health, and lead author of the study.
A previous study by the same authors indicated that there is an energy gap contributing to the obesity epidemic.
This energy gap-or the imbalance between the calories children take in each day and the calories they expend to support normal growth, physical activity, and body function-is about 110-165 excess calories per day.
The new study supports limiting intake of calories from sugary beverages to promote optimal energy balance.
"Mounting evidence suggests that the excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages not only contributes to obesity but also promotes energy imbalance, further supporting the potential benefit of limiting these drinks," Wang said.
The study is published in Paediatrics.