By: Nikki Nies

Sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption is the largest contributing factor to childhood obesity.  SSB includes soda, fruit drinks, fruit juice, energy drinks, sports drinks, flavored milk and are the unnecessary consumption of added carbohydrates for flavoring.  High consumption of SSB increases risk for metabolic syndrome and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Risk factors for increased consumption of SSB:

  •  Sedentary lifestyle: With increased sedentary activities such as TV watching and computer use comes mindless consumption of SSB; an increased opportunity to overeat and additional exposure to food advertisements
  •  Access at school: 68% of students consume SSB through vending machines, cafeteria and events in the classroom; Approximately 145 kcal could be saved by limiting intake of SSB at school; amount of SSB consumed is inversely related to the quality of SSB policies in schools
  •  Parental Influence:parents are “gatekeepers” of SSB consumption at home; children of lower educated mothers are 1.7 times more likely to consume SSB than those with higher educated mothers; parents are key players in the prevention and change of consumption of SSB
  • Ethic and Socioeconomic Disparities: Lower household income is independently associated with increased consumption of SSB; among children ages 6-11, Latino and black children have an increased overall consumption of SSB compared to white children of the same age

Negative Consequences:

  • Altered milk consumption: with increased consumption of SSB comes decreased consumption of milk; Kids who drink SSB instead of milk are missing out in vital nutrients such as Calcium and Vitamin D which can lead to bone disease later on; when available, two thirds of school children prefer flavored and sweetened milks instead plain low fat milk
  • Other food consumption:increased consumption of SSB leads to increased consumption of higher energy dense foods such as pizza, burgers, fried potatoes and snack foods; heavy consumers of SSB have an increased consumption of food, they also have a decreased consumption of non-sugar sweetened beverages such as milk and water

The risk factors and consequences of SSB are multifaceted.  By understanding why adults and children consume SSB in exorbitant amounts will provide great groundwork on how to best intervene and provide increased awareness on why people can’t stay away from sugar sweetened beverages.


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