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76% of low-income children regularly drink sugar-sweetened beverages :

February 25, 2020

About three-quarters of children receiving federal food assistance drink sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on a typical day, a study found.

Researchers said consumption is declining but still is too high as SSBs have been linked to health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental caries.

The team looked at data on 15,645 children ages 2-19 years from the 2003-’14 National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys. Families included participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), those who were eligible but not participating and those of varying incomes who were not eligible.

Among SNAP participants, consumption of SSBs on a typical day dropped from 84% to 76%, leaving them higher than other groups. About 67.5% of children who were eligible for SNAP but not participating reported SSB consumption. Among families not eligible for SNAP, about 71% with lower income and 68% with higher income reported drinking SSBs on a typical day.

Trends in consumption among children receiving SNAP differed based on the type of beverage. Soda consumption declined from 58% of children to 34%, and fruit drink consumption declined from 31% to 25%. However, consumption of sports/energy drinks and low-calorie SSBs increased. About 8% of the children drank sports/energy drinks on a typical day in 2014 up from 3% in 2003. During that time, low-calorie SSB consumption rose from 0.5% to 10% of children.

Authors credited the declines to increased education about the health impacts of SSBs and schools making them less accessible. Changes to SSB products and media coverage also may have played a role. However, they noted “current levels of SSB intake remain too high overall.” In addition, the increase in children drinking sports/energy drinks is “concerning in light of an emerging body of literature linking intake of these drinks to negative health consequences like caffeine toxicity and adverse cardiovascular effects.”

In a 2019 policy statement (, the AAP and American Heart Association said, “Federal nutrition assistance programs should ensure access to healthful foods and beverages and discourage consumption of sugary drinks.”

Study authors recommended limiting these purchases under SNAP, but states that have requested federal permission to do so have been denied.

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