January 27, 2005
First, there’s the sugar. Then there’s the caffeine. And if that weren’t enough, the phosphates that give soda pop its fizz actually weaken the bones.
Health experts agree that soda pop is bad for children, but they also agree that kids seem to be drinking more of the liquid candy than ever. And it typically comes as a substitute for milk.
Soda consumption among teens has tripled for boys and doubled for girls from 1978 to 1996, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While teens in 1978 drank 1 1 /2 times as much milk as any other beverage, teens in 1996 were drinking twice as much soda as milk, according to the USDA food survey.
"They have soda with every meal, instead of a glass of milk," said Dr. Mary Rimsza, a pediatrician and former Arizona State University health director. "Children shouldn’t be drinking caffeine."
Caffeine is a stimulant that can disturb children’s sleep and upset their stomachs, Rimsza said. Soft drinks also contain phosphoric acid, which hinders the absorption of calcium. Studies are showing increased incidence of osteoporosis at a younger age, Rimsza said.
Nutritionists worry more about the sugar than the caffeine.
"There’s no real solid evidence that caffeine in and of itself is an issue," said Jeffrey Hampl, assistant professor of nutrition at Arizona State University East. "The bigger issue is the calories and the sugar."
Schools are a prime source of sugary drinks for teens, and the money generated from vending machines has proved as addictive as caffeine.
While the vending machines may be here to stay, the choices are changing, said Loretta Zullo, director of food and nutrition for the Mesa Unified School District.
"They are going to continue to be a source of revenue," Zullo said. "What you will see change is what’s available to purchase."
Already drink machines offer bottled water, sports drinks and fruit juices. As part of the federal free lunch program, the Mesa school district and others will be required to find ways to bring healthier food and drink, and exercise, into the school day.
Per 8-ounce serving
Mountain Dew: 27 mg Pepsi: 27 mg SoBe Energy Citrus: 24 mg Coca-Cola Classic: 24 mg Sunkist Orange: 23 mg Vanilla Coke: 21 mg Snapple Lemon Iced Tea: 19 mg Barq’s Root Beer: 15 mg Caffeine-free beverages: Minute Maid Orange, Slice, Sprite, 7UP, Mug Root Beer, lemonade, fruit juice, milk and water.
Source: Consumer Reports