Children's pop consumption still rising

Canadian boys who drink pop and other sweetened beverages are at higher risk for obesity, and sugary drink consumption is continuing to rise, a new study suggests.

Boys most at risk for obesity from consuming sugary drinks

Canadian boys who drink pop and other sweetened beverages are at higher risk for obesity, and sugary drink consumption is continuing to rise, a new study suggests. 

Children in Mexico and the U.S. show higher pop consumption than in Canada, but parents shouldn't be complacent, a nutrition professor says. (Moyses Zuniga/Associated Press)

Researchers looked at what Canadians aged two to 18 reportedly consumed in the Canadian Community Health Survey. It defined sweetened, low-nutrient beverages as those with less than 100 per cent fruit juice, lemonades, regular soft drinks, and sweetened coffees or teas.

Sweetened beverages like pop, fruit punch and lemonade were the main ones consumed during childhood, nutrition Prof. Susan Whiting of the University of Saskatchewan and her co-authors say in the October issue of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

Boys aged six to 11 years who drank the most sweetened drinks, about 553 grams a day of soft drinks, had about double the risk of being overweight and obese compared with their peers, after taking factors like household income into account, the researchers said.

"A considerable proportion of Canadian children aged two to 18 years consumed a dominant pattern of sweetened beverages," the study's authors concluded.

Children form habits about what they eat and drink early in life and often continue those patterns into adulthood, they said.

"You don't want people to be too complacent about these drinks," Whiting said in an interview. "I think other research shows that if it gets out of hand that these sugary beverages can make a big impact on weight."

Canadian intakes haven't reached those in the U.S., but are heading in that direction, Whiting said.

Higher pop intakes

"The trend is still for higher intakes," she noted, based on her previous research of consumption among boys and girls in Saskatoon.

Whiting is concerned that children and teens are substituting soft drinks for milk in their diet.

Average consumption of sugary beverages, not including chocolate milk, for U.S. teens was 629 grams per day, compared with 476 grams in Canada based on national survey data.

Since the survey was done in 2004, schools and recreation facilities have removed pop machines.

The next such national survey is scheduled for 2015.

In the survey, participants or their parents were only asked about consumption on a single day rather than checking for changes over time, which is a limitation of the research.

Investigators collected data on physical activity and sedentary time (such as playing video games) for participants aged six to 11.

The research, which was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, was representative of the country's population.

With files from CBC's Amina Zafar