Second Opinion: Sweetened Beverages
Sweetened Beverages: Not Ideal for Thirst or Flying
By Dr. David Pommer
The marketers for Red Bull energy drinks use metaphors to depict the benefits of their sweetened beverage. The problem with their slogan — “giving you wings” — is that unlike birds, human bones are not hollow. And with the extra calories these sweetened beverages add to your waistline, any child or adult would find it difficult to “lift off.”
So as warmer weather approaches and kids leave the classrooms for summer break, they will likely find themselves with increased levels of thirst. The question is, what thirst quenchers will they choose? Hopefully this column will give both you and your child the information necessary to make an informed decision.
Sweetened beverages or any drinks that include sugar — such as soda pop, juice, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, sports drinks and energy drinks — pack a lot of calories. And with a growing childhood obesity epidemic, these are not calories they need for a healthy developing body.
Let’s turn to our nutritionist friends for help in crunching some of these numbers:
It takes 3,500 calories to make one pound of fat.
- Your standard-issue juice box has about 110 calories. So, let’s say you had a juice box every day. Over a year, you would gain about 11 pounds.
- A 12-oz. can of soda has approximately 150 calories per can. Over a year, you may gain up to 15 pounds.
- Drinking a large fountain drink or an energy drink could create upwards of 40 pounds of additional weight.
Not only do you need to be concerned about calories, but also about serving sizes. Actual drink sizes have gotten bigger over the years, even as the official “serving” size has remained constant. Today, a “kids”-size drink from a fast-food establishment is about the size that an adult drink was decades ago. If you order a beverage and it comes with two handles and wheels, consider that a sign to send it back. [what comes with two handles and wheels?]
And what about those energy drinks? The truth is, while it may provide a boost of energy, many people consume these drinks for activities that don’t require a lot of energy. One of my colleagues commented on a patient drinking energy drinks to play video games longer. While that may benefit the folks at Red Bull, a sedentary lifestyle compounds the problem of the extra calories from this sweetened beverage. And as a side note, the other additives that give an energy drink its “kick” are not particularly healthy either.
So what can we do? The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that kids have no more than one sweetened beverage per day. If a child is overweight, this amount should be reduced significantly, preferably to none.
Recently my 11-year old asked to have some sweetened coffee, which reminded me how I can serve as a positive or negative role model. Whether we are aware of it or not, our examples influence our kids’ decisions and choices. (Note to self: put down my juice box.)
So I encourage you to let water, milk and other unsweetened beverages pass your lips this summer. Not only will you and your children drink more responsibly and quench your thirst, I won’t need to explain how weight influences aerodynamics in my waiting room.
–David Pommer, MD, is a family physician with Selah Family Medicine. He is a graduate of Whitworth University and the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Filed under From the Mag, Second Opinion