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The Role of Beverages in Childhood Nutrition

Posted:  Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Role of Beverages in Childhood Nutrition

The Nestlé Nutrition Institute sponsored a satellite symposium during the 20th Congress of Nutrition (ICN) looking at the role of beverages in childhood nutrition. The meeting brought together three eminent speakers to examine different aspects of the role of beverages in children’s diets. The speakers discussed:

Hydration Status in Schoolchildren after Breakfast

Adequate hydration is a concern in children as they are more vulnerable to dehydration than adults. The first presentation shared the outcomes of a series of studies to measure the hydration status of school children aged 9-11 in France, Italy and the UK. The aim of the studies was to measure the incidence of elevated morning urinary osmolality and the secondary goals were to understand the determinants of osmolality and any relationship to body mass index (BMI) status and to gender.

The results showed that a substantial number of children may have experienced a water deficit even after having breakfast. While there was little difference between the countries, the study found that boys, and obese children had the largest deficit. The presentation concluded by noting that, hydration status in schoolchildren in the morning, as reflected by urinary osmolality after breakfast, is highly dependent on water and fluid intake.

More information and a practical guide examining the issue of hydration in schoolchildren and advice on improving hydration in children has recently been published in this journal (Gibson-Moore 2013).

Milk Consumption in Children’s Growth and Development

This session given by Professor Lindsay Allen presented a review of 35 studies – both observational and randomised controlled trials (RCTs) – related to feeding fortified and unfortified dairy products to children.

It summarised the health benefits of milk in the diets of children, noting that it is particularly useful in the diets of undernourished children.

Dairy products are well recognised as being an excellent source of many of the macro- and micronutrients required for optimal growth and development of children. However, milk intake of children is falling in industrialised countries and availability is poor in developing countries.

The session finished by highlighting the further work needed to understand the growth-inducing effects of milk, to evaluate their long-term effects and to make dairy products more available to children in situations where nutrition support is needed.

Beverage nutrient density and childhood obesity

The final session given by Professor Adam Drewnowski presented data from U.S. dietary surveys and compared nutrient density scoring models.

It outlined that diets associated with childhood obesity tend to be energy-dense but nutrient poor, offering two possible solutions: to increase nutrient density through the consumption of more nutrient-dense beverages and foods (i.e. add nutrients), or to reduce the energy density of the overall diet by, for example, drinking more water in place of sugar-containing soft drinks (i.e. remove calories).

Data analysis showed that no group of U.S. children came close to satisfying the dietary reference intakes (DRIs) for water. At least 78% of children aged 4–8 years, and 86% of those aged 9–13 years did not meet the DRIs for total water intake, as established by the IOM.

Additional studies on consumption of nutrient-dense beverages and water among diverse socio-demographic groups will provide more information on hydration, energy density and nutrient density of children’s diets in relation to bodyweight.

Although diverse in approach, the three presentations made for a very interesting examination of the importance of beverages to children both for hydration and nutrition.

You can read more details of all three presentations in the Conference Bulletin.