Although sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption has been tightly linked to weight status among older children, the data regarding these relationships in children aged 2 to 5 years have been mixed. Our objective was to evaluate longitudinal and cross-sectional relationships between SSB consumption and weight status among children aged 2 to 5 years.
We assessed SSB consumption and BMI z scores among 9600 children followed in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey—Birth Cohort, using linear and logistic regression and adjusting for race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, mother’s BMI, and television viewing.
Higher rates of SSB consumption were associated with higher BMI z scores among children age 4 (P < .05) and 5 (P < .001) but not yet at 2 years. Children aged 5 years who drank SSB regularly (compared with infrequent/nondrinkers) had a higher odds ratio for being obese (1.43, confidence interval 1.10–1.85, P < .01). In prospective analysis, children drinking SSB at 2 years (compared with infrequent/nondrinkers) had a greater subsequent increase in BMI z score over the ensuing 2 years (P < .05).
Similar to what is seen among older children, children aged 2 to 5 years drinking SSB demonstrate both prospective and cross-sectional correlations with higher BMI z score. Pediatricians and parents should discourage SSB consumption to help avoid potential unhealthy weight gain in young children. From a public health standpoint, strong consideration should be made toward policy changes leading to decreases in SSB consumption among children.