Tax sugary drinks, urge pediatricians and Heart Association

Two health organizations make policy recommendations on how to reduce kids’ consumption of sugary drinks

Tax sugary drinks, urge pediatricians and Heart Association

Now, the nation's leading group of kids' doctors, the American Academy of Pediatrics, together with the American Heart Association, has endorsed a range of strategies created to curb children's consumption - including taxes on sugary drinks, limits on marketing sugary drinks to kids and financial incentives to encourage healthier beverage choices. The policy statement is the first time AAP has recommended taxes on sugary drinks.

"I talk with my patients and their families all the time about the health harms of sugary drinks and the advantage of drinking primarily water and milk".

"As a nation we have to say "no" to the onslaught of marketing of sugary drinks to our children", Rachel K. Johnson, PhD, RD, professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington and former chair of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee, said in a press release.

Serious problems associated with regular sugary drink consumption include fatty liver disease, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

Healthy drinks such as water and milk should be the default beverages on childrens menus and in vending machines, and federal nutrition assistance programs should ensure access to healthy food and beverages and discourage consumption of sugary drinks.

The governor of CT has proposed a statewide tax on sugary beverages.

While consumption of sugary drinks has declined in the US, kids and teens still consume about 150 calories a day, on average, from them. “On average, children are consuming over 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year.

The authors recommend that local, state, and/or national policies meant to reduce added sugar consumption should include consideration of approaches that increase the price of sugary drinks (e.g., excise tax); these taxes should be accompanied by education for all stakeholders on the rationale and benefits of the tax.

"We know from the example of Berkeley, CA, the first USA city to implement such a tax, and Mexico's country-wide tax, that this approach works". Those dollars are used to improve preventive health services, as well as school nutrition and oral health services in low-income communities.

"The results really support limiting and reducing sugar-sweetened beverages", says Vasanti Malik, ScD, lead author on the paper and a research scientist in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. For people who drank more than two sugary beverages, that number jumped to 21 percent.

Bottom line, two big groups have come out with a not-so-sweet message: help your child stay healthier, or pay the price...both literally and literally -in cost and health. Residents in nearby cities, on the other hand, maintained steady levels of sugary drink consumption. That's significantly above guidelines recommending children and teens get 10 percent or less of their calories from added sugars. That includes not only most sodas, but fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters and coffee and tea beverages.

Juices can also be made with added sugars on top of the natural sugars already present in the fruits.

"Our bodies don't register calories in liquid form at the same magnitude as solid food", says Malik.

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