AAP Says No to Soft Drinks in Schools

Childhood obesity is on the rise in the U.S. In the past decade the percentage of overweight children has doubled and nearly tripled in adolescents. One way to combat this trend is to ensure our children have access to healthy food choices both at home and at school. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) addresses this problem in a new policy recommending that schools restrict the sale of soft drinks that may be contributing to childhood health problems that result from overconsumption.

Dr. David Wallace at the Children’s Clinic of SWLA says, “Soft drink vending machines in the schools make it so easy for children to access high-sugar, high-calorie, low- nutrition drinks.” Sweetened soft drinks are the largest source of added sugar in the daily diet of U.S. children. Each 12-ounce serving of a carbonated, sweetened soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Sugared soft drink consumption has been associated with increased risk of overweight and obesity, currently the most common medical condition of childhood.

According to the AAP, between 56 and 85 percent of school age children consume at least one soft drink daily. As soft drink consumption increases, milk consumption decreases, and milk is the principal source of calcium in the typical American diet. These added sweet drinks can lead to dental cavities from the high sugar content, and the erosion of enamel of teeth from the acidity.

Wallace adds, “Kids who fill up on sugar and high-fat foods also don’t get the nutrients their bodies need for healthy growth and development.” The average teen consumes about twice the amount of sugar recommended by the USDA and doesn’t get the recommended amounts of fruit and milk.

“Parents can control the availability of soft drinks at home, and schools need to restrict or eliminate the sale of soft drinks in their vending machines, sporting events, and school fund drives,” suggests Wallace, a member of the AAP. Although the sale of soft drinks bolsters many schools’ budgets, the AAP policy cautions that this fundraising tactic may be contributing to students’ health problems.