Health Experts Call For Action Against Sugary Drinks

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In 2013, Sugary drink manufacturers spent $866 million to market their products to adults and kids.

In a joint policy statement published online March 25 in Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association have endorsed a number of public health measures created to reduce sugary drink consumption among children and adolescents.

"For children, the biggest source of added sugars often is not what they eat, it's what they drink", Dr. Natalie D. Muth, a pediatrician and lead author of the policy statement, told ABC News.

"Most of my work has focused on adults and we have shown that, in addition to weight gain, regular consumption of sugary beverages is associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, some cancers and premature death", said Vasanti Malik, a research scientist in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition, who was not involved in the new policy statement but led that separate study.

"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.

In their statement, the ABA spokesman said that instead of additional taxes and regulations, "a better way to help reduce the amount of sugar consumers get from beverages...includes putting parents in the driver's seat to decide what's best for their children".

Excise taxes on sugary drinks have successfully reduced consumption in cities including Berkeley, Calif., and Philadelphia, Penn. Almost half of those are coming from drinks alone, with children consuming an average of 30 gallons of sugary drinks annually.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association said lawmakers should utilize taxes and warning labels to cut down on the prevalence of sugary drinks in USA culture. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends kids and teens consume fewer than 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugar, however, data shows kids and teens are now consuming 17 percent of their calories from added sugar, almost half of which comes from drinks alone.

The groups provide several recommendations for reducing the overall consumption of sugary drinks by children and teens.

Federal nutrition assistance programs aiming to ensure access to healthful food and beverages, while discouraging the consumption of sugary drinks.

Why do physician groups want to limit access to sugary sweetened drinks? Similarly, revenue from a 1.75 cent-per-ounce tax in Seattle funds programs that help low-income people buy healthy food, as well as subsidies to schools and childcare centers to increase servings of fruits and vegetables.

Other cities that have passed such taxes, including Albany and Oakland, California, as well as Boulder, Colorado are also funding public health prevention programs.

Children who consume more than 10 percent of the daily calories from added sugars have an increased risk of developing higher "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and lower heart-healthy HDL cholesterol. The two organizations want water and milk to be the go-to beverages on kiddie menus and in vending machines.

Other actions to address the issue could include limits on marketing to children and financial incentives for buying healthier beverages, experts said in the joint statement. If we can do this together, well improve the long-term health of our nations children.”.

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