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- On November 8, 2017
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- child nutrition, NASEM, National Academies, Nutrition, nutrition policy, Sugar, sugar sweetened beverages
By Sabrina Kim, University of Virginia
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) Food and Nutrition Board held a comprehensive workshop in June 2017 to explore the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in children under 5, as well as possible methods to reduce excess sugar consumption. On October 1, 2017, NASEM released a publication detailing the findings of this workshop.
The report began with an overview of children’s exposure to sugar-sweetened beverages. The report detailed that from birth children are developing physiological abilities surrounding taste and food. In particular, newborns have a natural affinity for sweetness that only dissipates after constant and repetitive exposure to unique and novel foods. According to Leann Birch, a professor at the University of Georgia, this behavior renders children more susceptible than adults to displacing healthier dietary options with sweetened foods or beverages.
Many children are introduced to 100 percent fruit juice or fruit-flavored drinks at an early age. According to the 2016 Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS), these drinks are the most commonly consumed sugar-sweetened beverages amongst children under four, and the trend is even more pronounced for minority groups. Experts in the field are still debating the exact extent of the effects of high levels of sugary beverage consumption, as well as the appropriate age to incorporate these into a child’s diet, but the consensus is that government policy has the potential to intervene.
The report goes on to mention several potential policy actions, including changing different aspects of federal nutrition assistance programs, obesity awareness campaigns, and sugar-sweetened beverage taxes. The report also remarks on industry’s role to engage in responsible marketing.
The report concluded with general comments on the necessity of exploring the importance of the government’s role in nutrition, and more broadly, public health. While many different avenues of addressing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in children under 5 were acknowledged, the report also emphasized the importance of the home environment and parental responsibility in the health of the nation’s youth (National Academies, 2017).
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017, October 1). Strategies to limit sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in young children: Proceedings of a workshop—in brief. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/24897/chapter/1