Food and Nutrition Policy for Health Promotion
Author: Haroon Siddique
Keywords: Sugar, Children, Parenting
Four- to eight-year-olds almost three times as likely to consume fizzy drinks than other children their age if parents drink them too.
Children aged four to eight whose parents regularly consume fizzy drinks are almost three times as likely to drink them as other children their age whose parents don’t, research suggests.
The Drink as I Do report suggests that young children copy the drinking behaviour of their parents, whatever they are consuming, but that the effect is most worrying when it comes to consumption of beverages linked to health problems.
Four- to eight-year-olds whose parents drank fizzy drinks were 192% more likely to consume them than other children their age. They were more than twice as likely (115%) to drink fruit juices if their parents consumed those and more than six times as likely (529%) to have smoothies if their parents indulged.
The report was compiled by Emma Derbyshire, children’s nutrition adviser to the Natural Hydration Council, a not-for-profit organisation backed by producers of bottled water.
She said: “Clearly children emulate their parents. With water, children were only drinking about three cups a day when they should be drinking between five and eight glasses. They’re under-consuming water in favour of calorific drinks. It’s a concern given problems with obesity and tooth decay. The thing is [for parents] not just to tell children to drink water but to do it themselves and ideally be seen to enjoy it.”
The report, based on responses from 1,000 parents and, in each case, one of their children, found that 37% of children do not drink water on any given day but this fell to13% when their parents drank water often.
Where parents drank squash, their children were 1.4 times more likely to drink them than other children and the “copycat” effect was even more pronounced for sports drinks (11 times more likely), although for the latter the small sample size means it should be treated with caution.
Children in the UK consume three times more sugar than is recommended, and soft drinks are the biggest source, accounting for 29% of the sugar intake of 11- to 18-year-olds and 16% for younger children. After concerns about the impact this is having on children’s health, a two-tier sugary drinks tax is to come into force next year based on the level of sugar per 100ml in a soft beverage.
Public Health England’s Eatwell guide, which was published earlier this year, advises that intakes of fruit juice and/or smoothies should be limited to a total of 150ml a day as they are a source of excess sugars.
Psychologist Emma Kenny, who is backing the report, said: “It’s that ‘do as I say not do as I do culture’. If you’re giving children water and drinking fizzy drinks, it’s natural for them to want to taste your drink and the moment the child can get their hands on a fizzy drink they will do so. You’re not going to stop them having other drinks but the tastes they form early on are compelling.”