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Sports Drinks Linked To Healthier Food Choices, More Physical Activity: Study

Consumption of flavored and sports beverages (FSBs) by eighth- and eleventh-grade students is positively linked to the consumption of healthy foods, such as milk, fruits and vegetables, and to increased levels of physical activity, says a new study reported in the October 2010 print issue of the journal Pediatrics. By contrast, the study found that soda pop was linked to decreased consumption of healthy foods and lower levels of physical activity.

Fruit medleyWhile both consumption of sodas and FSBs are associated with watching TV and snacking, researchers at the University of Texas found that FSB consumption occured along with some healthy behaviors not associated with soda consumption.

Other findings

  • soda consumption increased among boys from 8th to 11th grade while FSB consumption was steady;
  • soda consumption among girls remained steady from 8th to 11th grade while FSB consumption declined substantially;
  • black children of both genders had lower soda consumption but considerably higher FSB consumption than either Hispanic or white/other children;
  • "unhealthy" foods (meats, fried snacks, desserts) with sodas, FSBs, and overall consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) were linked;
  • the consumption of "healthy" foods (vegetables and fruit) increased with the level of FSB consumption be decreased with the level of soda consumption for both boys and girls;
  • the consumption of milk and FSB were linked;
  • In general, the results suggest that soda consumption is associated with lower consumption of healthy foods while FSB consumption increases with the consumption of healthy foods, especially for girls.  

Public health implications

The study authors said the findings suggest that, in designing strategies to combat childhood obesity, public health advocates need to take into account the differences between sodas and FSBs instead of focusing on the fact that they are all sugar-sweetened.

They cautioned, however, that the study does not show the direction of the link (in other words, whether eating healthier foods causes increased consumption of FSBs or increased consumption of FSBs leads to increased consumption of healthier foods).

Source: Ranjit N, Evans M, Byrd-Williams C, Evans A, Hoelscher D. "Dietary and Activity Correlates of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Among Adolescents," Pediatrics 126(4): e755-761.

Created September 27, 2010