In a new study, researchers analyzed the responses of nearly 7,500 children who filled out beverage-consumption questionnaires when they were in fifth and eighth grades. The children's milk consumption decreased between the two grades, while their consumption of sweetened beverages with low nutritional quality more than doubled.
Milk consumption fell more among children who drank any sweetened beverages than among those who drank no sweetened beverages, the study found. In addition, consumption of 100% fruit juice increased, regardless of consumption of sweetened beverages.
After taking into account population and nutrition factors, however, the investigators concluded that children were not moving toward sugary drinks as a replacement for healthier drinks such as milk and 100% fruit juice.
Children who drank more milk over the three-year study period also increased their consumption of juice, which suggests that milk and juice are complements, not substitutes, in these kids' diets, the researchers said.
Boys and white children were most likely to drink sweetened beverages. Those who drank sweetened beverages daily were more likely to attend public school, eat school lunch or breakfast regularly and receive a free or reduced-price school lunch.
The findings were published online July 18 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Lead investigator Reena Oza-Frank, of the Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said there is a concern that as children increase their consumption of one high-calorie beverage, they also increase their consumption of others.
"It's important for [food and nutrition practitioners] to help children and families understand that caloric beverages, even those that are generally healthful, contribute to children's total calorie intake and must be moderated as a part of a healthy diet," Oza-Frank said in a journal news release.