A report released on Dec. 5, 2016, in San Antonio shows Latino children drink more sugary drinks earlier in life than their counterparts, putting them at greater risk of obesity.
High-calorie sodas, sports drinks, juices, and flavored milks are all beverages infants and toddlers don’t need. Yet Rosalie Aguilar of Salud America!, a national obesity prevention network targeting Latinos, says Hispanic parents tend to give their children these drinks at a young age.
"For Latino kids in particular, we know that they start drinking sugary drinks at a very young age," Aguilar said. "Nearly 70% of children by the age of 2 have already consumed a sugary drink, compared to only 45% of the non-Latino white population."
With early consumption of these drinks, children develop a taste for sugar. The empty calories can suppress appetite and cause children to eat less of the foods they need to fuel their bodies.
The risk is real. Latino children who drink at least one sugary beverage a week are more than twice as likely to be obese by kindergarten.
Certain interventions, though, can help reverse this trend. In some schools where vending machines were replaced with water jets, the likelihood of the students becoming overweight went down.
"When water is made accessible to children, they’re more likely to drink water," Aguilar stated. "And later on, years down the road, we’re finding that they’re less likely to be obese.
In four cities where a soda tax was enacted, water and milk purchases went up.
Salud America!, which is part of the University of Texas Health Science Center, produces videos explaining the problem and possible solutions to spread the word to parents and policy makers around the country.