Title: Cola vs Milk in Teenagers

Key words: adolescents, milk consumption, calcium intake, osteoporosis

Date: Aug 2000

Category: 4. Food Data

Type: Article

Author: DJE Candlish


Cola vs Milk in Teenagers

American teenagers are drinking only about half as much milk as their parents did 30 years ago, and sugary soft drinks are quickly becoming the beverage of choice. But the authors of a new study on teenage nutrition say that increase in sugar consumption could compromise the future health of the nation. The study found between 1965 and 1996 total milk consumption among adolescents dropped by close to 50%. That decrease was accompanied by a large increase in consumption of sugar-laden soft drinks and fruit-flavored beverages.

"By 1996, on a daily average, teen boys consumed about 50 ounces a day of soft drinks or sugared drinks," says study author Barry Popkin, PhD, Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill schools of public health and medicine. "That's from less than 20 ounces in 1965 up to 50 ounces in 30 years. That's a big shift." Researchers say they conducted their study to uncover adolescent food consumption trends that could affect chronic diseases in the US, and the results show more strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure and bone-weakening osteoporosis are on the horizon.

"The decline in calcium intake is at a time when that's the major build-up in bone density in kids between the ages of 10 and 25," says Popkin. "If you don't do it then, it's going to have long term implications in terms of bone health." The study analyzed dietary survey information from a subset of 12,498 teens from an original group of 90,000 participants in four U.S. Department of Agriculture surveys that began in 1965. Popkin says the dramatic increase in soda and sugary drink consumption was the most striking nutritional trend revealed by the study. Although researchers can not directly link the decrease in milk drinking to the rise in popularity of soda, experts say the trend is disturbing. "Soda is no longer considered a treat. Soda is now considered a given at a lot of peoples' tables," says Althea Zanecosky, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "You're replacing nutritious calories with empty calories." "Now we're seeing some of the things that we were worrying about--like an increase in bone fracture even in teenage girls," says Zanecosky.

Most guidelines recommend four 8-ounce servings of milk or other calcium-rich food daily for teenagers to promote bone strength. Aside from affecting bone growth, experts say drinking sugary drinks instead of water or milk is also contributing to the problem of adolescent obesity. The study also found teens are eating more fatty foods--like pizza, tacos and French fries--than their parents did. That trend, researchers say, has led to a decrease in how much fresh fruit and non-potato vegetable teens eat. Few get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, says Popkin