09/27/2012 02:11 pm ET Updated Nov 27, 2012

Kids Guzzle 7 Trillion Calories From Sugary Drinks Each Year


By Katherine Harmon
(Click here for the original article and podcast)

Kids from the ages of two to 19, consume about seven trillion calories in sugar-sweetened beverages per year, according to Steve Gortmaker of the Harvard School of Public Health. He spoke at the Obesity Society Annual Scientific Meeting in San Antonio on September 23rd.  Seven trillion is a lot of calories in sugar-sweetened beverages. At, for example, 50 cents per can, it's about $24 billion a year.

All of those dollars and sugary calories are stoking the childhood obesity epidemic. Currently, in the U.S., about 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese--that's more than 12.5 million kids. And new research in the British Medical Journal suggests that obese children will have much higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease as adults. [Claire Friedemann, et al, Cardiovascular Disease Risk In Healthy Children And Its Association With Body Mass Index: Systematic review and meta-analysis] Even as kids, their hearts are changing shape to look like those of adults at risk for heart disease.

But the good news is that simply cutting out an average of 64 calories a day from kids' diets could start to level out the steep rise in childhood obesity. That's equivalent to less than half a can of most non-diet sodas.



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