Young kids drink fewer sugary beverages with targeted interventions
Interventions to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages by young children are successful when targeting vulnerable populations, including low-income families and racial and/or ethnic minorities. They are also effective when used in settings such as preschools or day care centers.
“A robust body of literature links sugar-sweetened beverage consumption to negative health consequences including adiposity, dental carries, insulin resistance and caffeine-related effects such as headaches,” Kelsey Vercammen, a second year Master of Science student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues wrote. “The association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and weight gain is particularly concerning given that childhood obesity often continues into adulthood, heightening the lifetime risk of morbidity and premature mortality from obesity-related diseases.”
Vercammen and colleagues examined evidence available for several strategies that target sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in children aged between 0 and 5 years. All studies included in this review were conducted in high-income countries and were published between Jan. 1, 2000, and Dec. 15, 2017.
Of the 27 studies meeting inclusion criteria, most interventions occurred within a health care setting (n = 11). Other settings included preschools and daycare centers (n = 4), homes (n = 3), community venues (n = 3) and other settings (n = 6). Many of these studies focused on children who may be at high risk of consuming these beverages, including those in low-income families (n = 11) and racial and/or ethnic minorities (n = 4).
Eighteen of the studies included in this review targeted diet, physical activity, sleep habits, oral hygiene and/or media use.
The researchers observed that the interventions that were successful in reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in children aged 5 years or younger included in-person individual education, in-person group education and passive education in the form of pamphlets and other published materials.
Additionally, Vercammen and colleagues observed decreases in the consumption of these beverages when technology was used to educate about the effects of sugar-sweetened beverages, when child care and health care workers were trained and when access to these beverages was limited.
The researchers noted that the quality of these studies was moderate.
“The effectiveness of each strategy alone should be interpreted with caution,” Vercammen and colleagues wrote. “While the six identified strategies were components of successful studies, most of these strategies were also components of unsuccessful studies. Therefore, there are likely other important factors which determine the success of a particular strategy. For example, differences in study population, intervention compliance and methodological quality could all alter the effectiveness of a given strategy.”
Strategies that were deemed successful, according to the researchers, were also used in combination with other strategies. For example, some successful interventions included education and changes to physical access to sugar-sweetened beverages. They warn that success might not be attributable to one strategy. – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.