The group, led by Kirsten Hennrick, PhD, from the National Center for Health Statistics, investigated what children drink and how their beverage consumption habits vary by age, sex, and race/ethnicity.
"Beverage choices can impact diet quality and total calorie intake," the report authors wrote. "Soft drinks accounted for 20% of total beverages consumed among youth. They include a wide variety of beverages, typically associated with increased intake of added sugar, thus adding extra calories without the benefit of vitamins, minerals, and fiber."
Consumption varies by pediatric demographics
Hennrick and colleagues investigated total beverage consumption trends among of children ages 2 to 19 using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 2013 to 2016. The surveys are conducted by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics and are designed to provide nationally representative data about the health status of children and adults in the U.S.
Researchers asked NHANES participants what they had to drink within the past 24 hours. Water was the most consumed beverage among U.S. children, followed by milk and soft drinks, which include regular soda, diet soda, and fruit drinks with added sugar.
Beverage consumption also varied by age and sex, the researchers found. Older children were more likely to consume water and soft drinks than younger children, while younger children were more likely to drink milk. In addition, boys were more likely to consume soft drinks, while girls were more likely to drink water.
The researchers also found significant differences in beverage consumption habits by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic Asian youth were significantly more likely to drink water than children of any other race/ethnicity, and non-Hispanic black youth were more likely to consume soft drinks.
"Soft drinks accounted for almost one-third of total beverage intake for non-Hispanic black youth, significantly more than all other race and Hispanic-origin groups," the authors wrote.
Getting accurate data
There were several limitations associated with the NHANES data, according to the authors. Notably, the data were self-reported, so beverage consumption could be underreported.
Nevertheless, the authors wrote that this shortcoming does not delegitimize their findings.
"Limitations, such as underreporting, associated with 24-hour recalls have been well-characterized but do not diminish the utility of the NHANES dietary data in assessing population outcomes," they wrote. "Beverage consumption expressed a percentage of total beverage consumption, partially adjusts for misreporting."
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