As children across the nation prepare for the upcoming school year, dentists and pediatricians are advising parents to encourage healthier snacking.
Children are consuming ever-greater amounts of soft drinks that could increase their risk for obesity and dental disease, according to the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The health organizations are recommending that parents urge children to consume nutritious drinks in school and at home.
Children age 6 to 19 consume significantly more ounces of soft drinks each day than milk or juice. Teenage boys and girls are drinking twice as much soft drink as milk and one-third of teenage boys drink at least three cans a day. Consumption of milk, the principle source of calcium in the typical American diet, decreases as soft drinks become a favorite choice for children.
"Sweetened drinks are the primary source of added sugar in the daily diet of children," said Renee Jenkins, M.D., AAP vice president. "Each 12-ounce serving of a carbonated, sweetened soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Not only should parents be discouraging their children from drinking soda, but they can set a good example by choosing to drink healthier alternatives themselves."
Dentists have long recognized that good nutrition has a direct link to good oral health, according to Dr. Kimberly Harms, an ADA consumer advisor.
"When teeth come in frequent contact with sweetened soft drinks and other sugar-containing substances, the risk of tooth decay, which is the most common childhood disease, is increased as is the potential for erosion of tooth enamel," Dr. Harms explains. "Kids and teens are more susceptible to decay from soft drinks because their tooth enamel is not fully developed."
School vending machines and some vendor contractual arrangements influence youth consumption patterns and increase soft drink access, say the ADA and AAP. The organizations oppose such arrangements that target children and promote over consumption of soft drinks.
Pediatricians and dentists recommend children choose beverages that hydrate and contribute to good nutrition, such as fruit juice with no sweeteners, low-fat and non-fat white or flavored milk, vegetable juice and water.
In promoting good health, parents are also encouraged to make dental exams a regular part of the back-to-school routine, including completion of all health examinations and necessary immunizations in time for the new school year.
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