Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in Toddlers

Howdy Folks!

Recently I completed a project on the effects of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB’s) in toddlers for one of my Nutrition classes. The link between poor health and SSB’s is uncanny. Some quick facts courtesy of my group members: Consuming only one SSB per day increases the risk of Type 2 Diabetes in later life by over 25%, the risk of a heart attack by 20%, and developing gout later in life by 75%(15). After finishing this group research I have concluded that I will not keep SSB’s in the house for my future children. That’s not to say that they won’t be allowed the occasional soda at a birthday party with other children or a tasty milkshake after a dentist appointment. SSB’s are meant to be an occasional treat. It’s the daily use that begs the problem.

I have included an excerpt of the research below.

Standing in the juice isle at the grocery store, a parent is presented with a myriad of juice options for their toddler. Advertised benefits of the juices such as “organic” and “2 servings of fruits and vegetables” stand out. While the parent is picking out a juice, they see their child’s favorite television star on the box. Surely the child will consume this beverage due to its advertising, despite it being laden with a little fruit and a lot of added sugars. Little does the average parent know, it is not only the advertising that entices the child – it is the sickly sweet satisfaction from sugar that scientists suggest is similar to a drug addiction (3). In addition to the suggested mental addiction to sugar, children develop an innate preference for sugar due to its caloric density and resulting energy increase (3). Some items advertised specifically for toddlers contain more sugar than conventional vanilla ice cream; this can lead to a toddler developing a palate preference for sweeter foods that put them at risk for obesity in later life (4). 

The exposure to sugar-sweetened beverages does not solely occur because of pre-packaged beverages sold in the store. A study by Christel Hyden and Karen Bonuck of the Department of Family and Social Medicine discovered that sweeteners or solids containing sugars were added to 21% of toddlers’ “sippy cups” with homemade drinks on a regular basis. They also noted that Hispanic children were more likely to receive cereal in their “sippy cups” to flavor their milk while African American children were likely to have drink mixtures made of added sugars (5). These evaluated beverages contained almost triple the amount of sugar and over 20% more calories than those children that received beverages without sugar-sweeteners (5).

In an interview with twenty-nine Hispanic parents of toddlers, scientists found that parents considered homemade drinks such as “agua fresca” healthy, which was made with generous amounts of added sugar.  The aforementioned parents had mixed views on the importance of 100% fruit juice, which was gathered from their knowledge that was deemed to be predominantly derived from the WIC (6). On average, children in low-income families that receive support from WIC are more likely to consume sugar sweetened beverages than fruit at an earlier than recommended age which can lead to underdeveloped kidneys, immature digestive systems, and an increased possibility of allergies in later life (7). Often times those that consume sugar-sweetened beverages do not compensate for the increased energy intake with additional physical activity, which contributes to the nationwide obesity epidemic in the United States (8).

After the project was completed, I participated in another research project for an urban and rural environmental health class. The class mainly focuses on the anthropological effects of poor water quality. I realized, after sifting through interview transcripts, that low-income Latino and African-American mothers in the United States were the most likely to say that they did not trust their tap water. This led me to correlate mistrust of the water supply and the consumption of SSB’s.

If you read my “About Me” page you will realize that I spoke of passions. This is one of my passions. I want people to feel safe and secure consuming water across the United States.  Often times – amongst all of the soda, juice, chocolate milk, etc.- we forget how blessed we are to have access to a simple glass of water.


4.         4.  Cogswell, M. E., Gunn, J. P., Yuan, K., & Merritt, R. (2015). Sodium and Sugar in Complementary INfant and Toddler Foods Sold in the United States. Pediatrics , 135 (3), 416-423.

5.         5.  Hyden, C. J., & Bonuck, K. A. (2014). Addition of Solids and Sweeteners in Toddler Bottles and Sippy Cups. Infant, Child, and Adolescent , 6 (4), 205-210.

6.  Beck, A. L., Takayama, J. I., Halpern-Felsher, B., Badiner, N., & Barker, J. (2013). Understanding How Latino Parents Choose Beverages to Serve to Infants and Toddlers. Maternal and Child Health Journal , 18 (6), 1308-1315.

7.  Allen, J. (2003, November 3). Medicine; Weaned on Junk Food. Los Angeles Times

8.  Woodward-Lopez, G., Kao, J., & Ritchie, L. (2010). To What Extent Have Sweetened Beverages Contributed to the Obesity Epidemic? Public Health Nutrition , 14 (3), 499-509.

15.  Fiorito LM, Marini M, Mitchell DC, Smiciklas-Wright H, Birch LL.  Girls’ early sweeted carbonated beverage intake predicts different patterns of beverage and nutrient intake across childhood and adolescence.  J Am Diet Assoc.  2010 Apr;110(4):543-550.  doi:  10.1016/j.jada.2009.12.027.


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