Sharing information about the health risks linked to the consumption of sugary drinks during pregnancy and early childhood could help to reduce childhood obesity, a new American study suggests.

Nearly 18% of children suffer from obesity in the United States.

Several recent studies have shown that this condition can arise very quickly between the ages of two and five years.

A study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics, assessed 25 American families who were asked to rate the health risks of consuming soft drinks such as sodas.

“Emerging evidence suggests that regular consumption of sugary beverages, either by the mother during pregnancy or by the child before age of two years, may increase a child’s risk of obesity later in childhood,” explained Jennifer Woo Baidal, lead author of the study and assistant professor of paediatrics at Columbia University.

Her team found that many families had insufficient knowledge about the drinks they consumed and what they actually contained.

For example, a number of them were surprised to learn that many flavoured juices and milks contained large amounts of sugar.

Families were more receptive to prevention messages, which explained the sugar content of various beverages and the risks they can have on children’s health, in the form of images and graphics.

On the flip side, families were less responsive to documents telling parents what to consume without backing it up with specific information about the harmful effects of a product.

“Although our study was small, our findings could inform broader strategies to counter the mixed messages that many low-income families get about what’s healthy and what’s not,” emphasised Assist Prof Woo Baidal.

In March 2019, an American study highlighted the risks of drinking sodas regularly.

Consuming sugary drinks twice per day could increase the risk of premature death by 63% for women and 29% for men. – AFP Relaxnews