The war on sugar

Wendy’s Fanta and Pibb Xtra beverages are similar. In a large serving — 40 ounces — of each, comes 360 and 320 calories, respectively.

These proposed changes for New York City’s beverage sizes has the potential to affect the lower-income areas of the city and children the most.

“Typically, the corner store — which is easily accessible — doesn’t carry low fat or fat free milk or 100 percent fruit juice,” Brown-Riggs says of lower-income neighborhoods. “And if those beverages are available, they’re priced so high, the low-income family just can’t afford to buy them.”

poll earlier this year out of the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital revealed that children from lower-income households drank twice the recommended amount of juice — and its sugar content — per day.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting fruit juice to one serving a day for children six years of age and under. Yet, nearly half of parents whose annual household incomes were less than $30,000 gave their children two or more cups of juice per day.

More than ten years ago, the AAP published a policy statement acknowledging that although fruit juice is seen as nutritious, there were harmful effects of excessive fruit juice consumption in children. These risks involved malnutrition, overnutrition, diarrhea and tooth decay. The AAP expressed renewed support for this standpoint this year.

However, Brown-Riggs cautions parents against substituting sugary beverages with diet drinks or artificial sweeteners.

“We don’t want parents to go from one extreme to another and start swapping sugar-sweetened beverages for ‘diet’ beverages” she says. “The  2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages consumers to reduce their intake of foods and beverages with added sugars and replace them with more healthful options like water, moderate servings of 100-percent fruit juice and low-fat or fat-free milk.”

The FDA considers artificial sweeteners safe, but research is limited and does not clearly show harms or benefits in children.