Children who drink milk regularly tend to have a lower body weight than those who choose pop, but the link between fruit juice and weight gain is less clear.
A new study published in the October 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the relationship between body fat and soft drinks, milk and fruit juice. The researchers monitored intake of all beverages in 170 white, non-Hispanic American girls starting at age five.
For the next 10 years, the girls were surveyed every second year, each time completing three 24-hour food recall surveys. Throughout the study, the girls' height, weight, body fat percentage and waist circumference were measured and compared with their intake of milk, 100% fruit juice and sweetened drinks.
As the girls grew up, they gradually drank less juice and less milk and more sweetened beverages such as soft drinks and fruit drinks that contain anything less than 100% juice.
By age 15, girls who drank sweetened beverages at age five had a higher average weight and body fat percentage throughout the entire course of the study. The authors also found that the girls' weight and body fat was related to the total number of servings of sweetened drinks they consumed per day.
Fruit juice showed no relationship to weight gain however the study author believes this could be because the girls were consuming 100% fruit juice within the recommended amounts, averaging one-quarter (60 ml) to one-half (125 ml) per day.
Previous studies have shown us that that those who choose calorie-containing drinks tend to consume more total calories in the day. This current study is one of the few to look at the intake of sweetened beverages in children over a long period of time. This is also one of the first studies to look at milk, 100% fruit juice and sweetened drinks simultaneously.
Nutrition experts recommend two to four servings of milk and milk alternatives for children under 18. One serving is equal to one cup (250 ml) of milk or soy beverage. Healthy choices include lower fat skim or 1% milk or fortified soy beverage.
For more information on healthy beverages for children, check out Leslie Beck's Healthy Eating for Preteens and Teens.
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