Back-to-school: Healthy Drinks Help Combat Youth Obesity Says LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Heli J. Roy  |  4/19/2005 10:28:31 PM

News You Can Use For July 2004

It is important to reduce the intake of soft drinks and sweetened beverages in school-age children to help them maintain normal weight. Some of the best drinks for children are milk, water and fruit juices, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Heli Roy.

Obesity is increasing to epidemic proportions in the United States, particularly among the young, Roy points out. Because children and adolescents are getting heavier and heavier, the research community is looking for reasons for the weight problem.

The environment, dietary habits, lack of physical activity, safety, lack of physical education in schools and serving sizes are all linked to the epidemic. According to researchers, another reason may be the soft drinks and sweetened fruit juices that are favored by the young. The drinks are sweetened by high fructose corn syrup that was developed in the 1960s and 1970s.

High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, is metabolized differently than table sugar and may not be recognized by the body as calories, like regular sugar.

"Table sugar gives body ‘satiety’ signals, whereas fructose and HFCS do not," Roy says. Soft drink intake doubled from the 70s to the 90s and is still increasing. At the same time, there has been a 10 percent reduction in calcium and dairy intake in U.S. teen-agers.

The latest obesity research indicates that dairy product intake is protective against obesity. It is not known why and how milk and milk products work in helping maintain normal weight, but researchers are working on finding out.

The best meal plan was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Food Guide Pyramid. According to the Food guide Pyramid, children should consume two to three servings of dairy products each day. A single serving can be 1 cup (236 milliliters) of milk, 1 cup (236 milliliters) of yogurt or 1 ounce (28 grams) of cheese.

Today, many flavored varieties of milk are available in the grocery stores instead of just plain fluid milk. The flavored milks can be substituted for the plain milk in lunch boxes and as an after-school beverage. They still give good calcium and phosphorus for the bones. Many varieties and flavors of yogurt also are available that make an excellent after-school snack.

When considering what juices to buy, make sure the label says 100 percent fruit juice. If the label states fruit drink, it means that it has only a small fraction of real juice, and the rest is water, high fructose corn syrup and colors and flavorings. Most of the individually packaged items are fruits drinks and will have only a small part of real fruit juice in them.

For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Extension/Departments/fcs/ For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Extension/Departments/fcs/
Source: Heli Roy (225) 578-3329, or HRoy@agcenter.lsu.edu
Source: American Dietetic Association: http://www.eatright.org/Public/

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