Soft Drinks Linked to Child Heart Disease

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Imagine sitting in an airport waiting for a plane. What will you typically see these days? Parents feeding their children airport food and snacks and more than likely soda will be a part of the meal. I recently witnessed soda being poured into a baby bottle and sippy cups, so that wee ones would not be denied the opportunity of fully participating in a pre-vacation celebratory moment. And if this was a special one time experience, then fine, as far as this expert is concerned. But the reality is that meals like this one are a daily event and soda is a regular part of our kid's daily diets.


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    It's also not new or breaking news that health professionals are seeing signs of early heart disease in the bodies of kids and teens. During autopsies performed on teens that died during car accidents or other traumatic events, doctors have increasingly noted changes in the arteries of these victims consistently associated with heart disease. A new study published in this month's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that initial signs of heart disease have been noted in kids as young as 12 years old who have a "high intake of sugary drinks." Researchers from Westmead Millenium Institute in Sydney, Australia, looked at the link between consumption of carbohydrates and the retinal (eye vessel) health of children. Narrowing of the arteries consistent with early heart disease was noted, and the higher the level of carbohydrate consumption reported by these children (and the parents), the more likely the vessel changes were present. High consumption was clarified as 274 grams of carbohydrates daily, and the majority of these calories came from soft drinks or what Australians call "cordial," a sweet drink. High risk kids consumed more than a large glass daily of sweet drinks.


    Specifically when it came to gender, girls who consumed high levels of sugary drinks showed slightly more significant presence of narrowing of the retinal vessels, compared to boys with similar consumption levels. Researchers plan to follow these study participants for many years.  They also plan to look further at the gender differences.


    So what is the takeaway message for parents? As an expert I cannot stress enough the need to back away from serving your kids caloric beverages - juice, sweetened drinks and soda - and instead offer measured servings of fat free milk and all the water they want. It's a hard habit to break once it's entrenched, so pace the way you phase out these drinks if they are a significant part of your family's diet. As parents we need to model good behavior and our waistlines will also benefit if we also curtail drinking soda and sweet drinks on a regular basis. If you have kids, consider not introducing these drinks to begin with. I didn't make a big deal out of not bringing soda into the house, and fruits were always favored over juice - and my kids just didn't seem to care when other kids had it at parties and other events. I can tell you "liking carbonation" is an acquired taste - so by the time my own children were pre-teens, they didn't like the feel of the bubbles in drinks they tasted, so they kept their water and milk habit as their primary source of beverages.  The key for me was establishing home rules and outside-the-home rules, and not making "a big deal about it," just setting clear boundaries.


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    How do you feel about soda, juice and other sweet drinks in the family diet??

Published On: April 19, 2012