Mounting evidence is leading health experts to conclude children may be experiencing serious chronic illnesses from consuming too much soft drink.

Goldfields Population Health public health nutrition co-ordinator Ashlee Cross said this was of particular concern to WA Country Health Service.

“Evidence shows the link between dental caries, childhood overweight and obesity and consumption of added sugars, ” she said.

“For example, those in sugar-sweetened beverages, which include soft drinks, sport drinks, energy drinks, cordials, flavoured water and fruit drinks.

“These are a non-essential part of the diet.”

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating does not specify an age for when a child is safe to consume soft drink but Ms Cross said delaying their introduction would have a positive impact.

She said children’s taste buds were primed to prefer what they were introduced to early in life and changing eating habits became harder as time went on.

“If children get that taste for sweet drinks, it can be hard to get them to drink water instead, ” Ms Cross said.

“It is also very easy for a small child to drink more than the recommended maximum amount of caffeine per day.”

An average 18-month-old toddler weighing 10kg should not consume more than 25mg of caffeine per day.

One can of soft drink contains about 40mg of caffeine, which exceeds the recommended amount of caffeine for an average-sized child up to three years old.

Too much caffeine in children can cause anxiety, irritability, headaches, sleep difficulties, upset stomachs and difficulty concentrating.

Goldfields Child Care Centre manager Kirsty Fisher said serving meals approved by a nutritionist, the centre had a ‘no sugary drink’ policy.

“We don’t offer it, not even on special occasions, because it’s just not recommended as part of a healthy diet, ” she said.

“There are so many things in these drinks which can make children sick — the sugar, caffeine and food colourings.

“We only serve milk or water because these are the most natural and healthiest options.”


 Adults also being affected by sugary drinks


Nutrition experts are worried by research showing that one-fifth of WA adults who drink sugary soft drinks each day consume on average half a litre.

Research presented to the Public Health Association of Australia’s annual conference in Perth shows 22 per cent of adults drink regular soft drink each day, 12.5 per cent drink diet soft drink and 1.4 per cent drink both.

Sugar-sweetened drinks are the biggest source of sugar in the Australian diet and a can of regular soft drink contains up to 40g or 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Christina Pollard, from Curtin University’s school of public health, said the findings were concerning because people who drank soft drink were more likely to be overweight and obese.

Ms Pollard said there was a strong link between people who drank soft drink and ate fast food, and she blamed this on fast-food meal deals where the cost of the drink was virtually negligible.

Two surveys in WA and South Australia found that people who drank soft drink had on average half a litre a day. “This amount is a problem because it represents excess calories or kilojoules that are likely to lead to weight gain, ” she said.


© The West Australian

More Health news: thewest/