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Lowering intake of sugar sweetened beverages was found to improve HDL-C levels in school children

Posted:  Friday, September 11, 2015

On a hot summer day, coming back from school and sipping a favourite sugary beverage is something every child enjoys. However, simply kicking this habit or controlling it could provide a host of health benefits to school children, found a new study. The researchers found an inverse association between consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) and HDL-C (high density lipoprotein-C or the “good cholesterol”). They also found high consumption of SSBs to be associated with increase in triglyceride concentration.

Published in The Journal of Nutrition, this randomised, double-blind vitamin D supplementation trial called the ‘Daily D Health Study’ enrolled 613 children and adolescents aged 8 to 15 years. Conducted over a period of 12 months, the study tracked the SSB intake by using the Block Food Frequency Questionnaire for Children, and also measured fasting blood lipid concentrations. Notably, 59% of the study population were from non-white/Caucasian racial/ethnic groups.

Longitudinal measures were collected for 12 months in 380 of the participants. The researchers found that 68% of them were from low socioeconomic status (SES) households; almost half of them were overweight or obese. The following were the findings of the study:

- Consumption pattern: At the start of the study, almost 85% of the participants reported consuming SSBs over the past week. Eighteen per cent of them reported consuming 7 or more servings per week tallying to one or more servings per day.

- Characteristics affected by ethnic diversity: Ethnic diversity seemed to be a modifiable factor for puberty status, socio-economic status (SES), body mass index (BMI) and sedentary lifestyle, along with HDL-C and triglyceride concentrations.

- Effect of higher SSB intake on biochemical parameters: Higher consumption of SSBs was associated with higher triglycerides after accounting for confounding factors such as demographic and behavioural factors, BMI, total calories and measures of diet quality. Over the course of the study, mean SSB consumption was not associated with lipid changes. However, children who reduced their SSB intake by one or more 12-oz. servings per week showed the greatest increase in HDL-C levels. This was in comparison to those whose intake stayed the same or increased over the study period.

- Effect of higher SSB intake on physical and economical aspects: Greater consumption of SSBs seemed to be associated with older age, late puberty/post-puberty status and lower SES.

- Effect of higher SSB intake on diet composition: Greater SSB consumption was associated with higher total calorie consumption, lower fruit or vegetable intake, and a more sedentary lifestyle.

Since the consumption of SSBs was self reported by children, obese or overweight children could have underreported it. Hence, the researchers suggest evaluating large, multi-ethnic samples of children to better understand the health implications of reducing SSB intake. The lead researcher said, “Importantly, not only are most SSBs high in sugar and devoid of nutritional value, but they are displacing other foods and beverages that offer high nutritional quality, which are critical for children's growth and development, further exacerbating the potential harmful health effects of SSBs."

The presence of a cluster of risk factors, namely high triglycerides, low HDL-C, obesity and insulin resistance early in childhood could set the stage for cardiovascular disease. Hence, it is important to educate children about the health effects of SSB consumption and provide them with healthier alternatives.

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