Sugary drinks are linked to weight gain and obesity, including in young children. What are the consumption habits of this group when it comes to sugary drinks? And could data on this be a reason for better nutritional policy?
Obesity and the associated health problems are no longer just a problem for adults, children also have to contend with it. Previous research has shown that sugary drinks contribute to undetected weight gain.
Although campaigns and policies are being set up for a healthy diet in children, the prevalence of overweight continues to rise. Better insight into the consumption behavior of children could help to develop more targeted interventions that can be better embedded in the (Dutch) eating culture.
That is why data on lifestyle and weight are collected in the birth cohort (Groningen Expert Center for Kids with Obesity). The primary goal is to investigate which factors contribute to the development of overweight in early life. It looks at nutrition, exercise, biological and genetic factors, social factors and environmental factors.
Lifestyle at a young age
For a good energy balance and the prevention of obesity, both diet and exercise are important. There is strong scientific evidence for this in both adults and older children. Less is known about the scope of these factors at a very young age. The current state of knowledge seems to indicate that more or less (conscious) exercise at a young age (<5 years) has little influence on the development of overweight (2).
Perhaps because children can still easily meet their urge to move. Nutrition, on the other hand, seems to be important from a very young age. The role of breastfeeding is well known, but there are also indications for the influence of diet during toddlerhood on overweight (3) We studied the association between diet quality in children aged 3 years and the change in BMI and overweight incidence in the following 7 years .
From the birth cohort, 1001 children born in 2006 or 2007 with complete data on diet (food frequency questionnaire at the age of 3 years). This emphasizes once again that the nutrition of young children already deserves the maximum attention.
A food pattern questionnaire was also used in GECKO to gain insight into dietary patterns in general, and specifically the time at which foodstuffs are eaten. This was used to separately ask for seven moments of the day whether and how often children had eaten certain products over a period of two months. The seven times involved were: breakfast, morning run, lunch at school, lunch at home, afternoon, dinner and evening.
The questionnaire was completed by the parents when their children were five to six years old (period 2011-2013). Consumption of lemonade, sweetened dairy drinks, fruit juices, soft drinks and tea with sugar was taken together and considered as intake of sugary drinks.
Of the 1,257 children for whom the necessary data was available, almost all children consumed sugary drinks. The median consumption frequency (25th-75th percentile) was 3.1 (2.3 – 4.2) times per day. In the lowest quartile of consumption this was 1.9 and in the highest it was 4.9 times a day. The distribution of these consumptions over the day.
It was striking that the children with a low total intake frequency mainly drank sweet drinks during the morning and during the afternoon. At this age, these are the ‘fruit moment’ in the morning and the ‘snack moment’ after school. As the consumption frequency increases, extra consumptions are added especially to the main meals: more often at breakfast and lunch and in the group with the highest intake also at dinner.