Sugary drinks in the early years contribute to later obesity
The Sector > Research > Researchers link children having sugar sweetened drinks with obesity later in life

Researchers link children having sugar sweetened drinks with obesity later in life

by Freya Lucas

April 17, 2024

Consuming sugar laden drinks such as cola, cordial or other carbonated sweet drinks in the first few years of childhood can increase the risk of obesity later in life, a new study from Swansea University has found. 


Published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study tracked the influence of diet on 14,000 British children from birth to adulthood and is believed to be the longest of its kind ever reported.


Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, the research team found that children who drank such drinks before the age of two years gained more weight when they were 24 years old when compared with their peers. Girls who had pure fruit juice gained less weight, while the weight of boys remained the same.


At three years of age, toddlers who drank cola consumed more calories, fat, protein, and sugar but less fibre. In contrast, those given pure apple juice consumed less fat and sugar but higher amounts of fibre.


The study also highlighted corresponding differences in food choices. Children who consumed pure apple juice often followed a diet with more fish, fruit, green vegetables, and salad, whereas those drinking cola ate more burgers, sausages, pizza, french fries, meat, chocolate, and sweets.


Researchers also found a link between sugar-sweetened drinks and social deprivation, with children from affluent backgrounds more likely to have access to pure fruit juice.


“The early diet establishes a food pattern that influences, throughout life, whether weight increases,” Lead researcher Professor David Benton said. “The important challenge is to ensure that a child develops a good dietary habit: one that offers less fat and sugar, although pure fruit juice, one of your five a day, adds vitamin C, potassium, folate, and plant polyphenols.”


Access the study findings in full here

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