You might think it’s no biggie letting your child sip once or twice from your soda drink. We already know that soda is unhealthy for adults—it has already been linked to health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, and obesity. What more for kids? No more second-guessing: research has linked soda intake to kids’ cholesterol levels.
New research has found that children ages eight to 15 who drink a lot sugar-sweetened drinks had higher levels of triglycerides, or bad cholesterol associated with having a higher risk of heart disease. Conversely, those consuming less sugared beverages over the 12-month period of the study showed higher levels of HDL, or the good cholesterol that helps reduce the risk of heart problems.
In the study, published in Journal of Nutrition, the children were asked to answer questions about their diet, and were also subjected to blood tests at the start and end of the study. Children who consumed more sugared drinks such as carbonated sodas, artificial fruit juices, and sweetened tea had lower socio-economic status, ate less fruits and vegetables, engaged in less physical activity, and had higher levels of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. Over the course of a year, some kids drank more sugar-sweetened drinks, others decreased their intake, while some children drank the same amount of sugared beverages. At the end of the study, those who drank less sugar-sweetened beverages had significantly higher levels of HDL.
“Dietary intake is one of the modifiable factors that can be targeted in helping to prevent disease,” says Maria Van Rompay, lead researcher of the study and instructor at the Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “Even a small change in one serving per week can be enough to have an effect on HDL,” she says.
In the past, highly sweetened drinks have been linked to behavioral problems in kids, according to reports. The key is not just to prevent kids from drinking sodas or other sugared drinks, but to educate them about its effects. Diet is only one of the factors that affects cholesterol levels in kids, so instead of telling them what they shouldn’t eat or drink, explain to them the benefits of healthy eating, including the foods that give them the nutrients they need. Better yet, be a good role model to your kids: Eat healthy, and get lots of exercise.
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September 2, 2015. “How Soda Affects Kids’ Cholesterol Levels”. (time.com) September 9, 2015. “Kids with better lipid levels consume fewer sugary drinks”. (reuters.com)