In response to recent editorials on the sugary drinks’ roles on diabetes and obesity rates, I would like to contribute several additional thoughts, data points, and recommendations based on science.
The American Heart Association is a member of the Bexar Healthy Beverage Coalition, a group dedicated to raising awareness about the amount of sugar our community is consuming. As a member of both organizations, I agree that diabetes and obesity are serious health threats worth addressing, but also that there isn’t one single cause or risk factor. That means there won’t be one solution or magical cure to reverse these trends, and nobody should claim otherwise.
But you simply cannot have a serious discussion about diabetes and obesity without addressing sugar consumption broadly and sugary drinks specifically. That would be akin to trying to prevent lung cancer without discouraging smoking.
Salud America!, the team behind the new research on sugary drinks and Latino kids targeted by the Texas Beverage Association, understands this. Salud America! released four research packages this year on additional factors impacting Latino childhood obesity.
The organization offered methods to generate healthier school environments, innovative ways to help children ages 0-5 achieve a healthy weight by kindergarten, and increase the amount of and access to healthy food and physical activity opportunities in neighborhoods. This is a strong approach.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that added sugar consumption contributes heavily to diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, and some cancers. We also know that sugary drinks are the number one source of added sugar in American diets. The Salud America! study states that being Latino and drinking sugary beverages at least once per week at kindergarten age are associated with 2.3 times the odds of severe obesity in kindergartners.
The Bexar Healthy Beverage Coalition was formed to demonstrate the vast amount of sugar found in many popular drinks, provide evidence based information on the health effects of over-consuming sugar, and allow individuals to make their own informed decisions on what is best for their body. When it comes to young children, their caretakers make these decisions for them, and they should do so with the scientific guidance in mind.
While we all want sweet kids, they are sweet enough without a load of added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends that children under the age of 2 never have a sugary drink, and that children age 2 and up limit consumption to no more than one sugary drink a week.
We cannot continue to over-consume sugar and remain a healthy, fit, and productive nation. While there are no magic bullets to achieving ideal health, there are a number of smart and easy steps consumers can take to modify their behavior. Reducing or eliminating sugary drinks from diets would be a great first step.
For more information on the Bexar Healthy Beverage Coalition’s initiatives, click here.