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Article of Interest - School Nutrition

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Pediatricians' Group Urges Soda Ban in Schools to Fight Obesity
Distributed by Parents Advocating School Accountability, San Francisco

by Lindsey Tanner, Associated Press, 1/5/2004
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CHICAGO -- Soft drinks should be eliminated from schools to help tackle the nation's obesity epidemic, and pediatricians should work with their local schools to ensure that children are offered healthful alternatives, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

In a new policy statement, the academy says doctors should contact superintendents and school board members and "emphasize the notion that every school in every district shares a responsibility for the nutritional health of its students."

Some schools already limit contracts with vendors of soft drinks and fast food, though the soft drink industry has fought efforts by some states to mandate such restrictions. Legislation limiting the amount of fatty foods and sugary drinks that could be sold in Massachusetts schools -- and would have banned soda sales in the facilities -- was introduced last year.

Although some schools rely on funds from vending machines to pay for student activities, the statement by the pediatricians says elementary and high schools should avoid such contracts and that those with existing arrangements should impose restrictions to avoid promoting over-consumption.

The policy appears in the January issue of Pediatrics, published today.

"The purpose of the statement is to give parents and superintendents and school board members and teachers, too, an awareness of the fact that they're playing a role in the current obesity crisis and that they have measures at their disposal" to address it, said Dr. Robert D. Murray, the policy's lead author.

About 15 percent of US youngsters ages 6 to 19 are seriously overweight. That is nearly 9 million youths and triple the number in a similar assessment from 1980.

Soft drinks are a common source of excess calories that can contribute to weight gain, and soft drink consumers at all ages have a higher daily calorie intake than non-consumers, the academy's policy said. It cited data showing that 56 percent to 85 percent of school-age children consume at least one soft drink daily, most often sugared rather than diet sodas.

The National Soft Drink Association said the new policy is misguided and goes too far.

Below is a news release on a policy statement published in the January issue of Pediatrics, the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
For Release: January 5, 2004, 12:01 am (ET)

CHICAGO - In a new policy statement <> the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that school districts should consider restricting the sale of soft drinks to safeguard against health problems that result from over-consumption.

The policy points out that sweetened drinks constitute the primary source of added sugar in the daily diet of children, and that each 12-ounce serving of a carbonated, sweetened soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Sugared soft drink consumption has been associated with increased risk of overweight and obesity, currently the most common medical condition of childhood. Additional health problems associated with high intake of sweetened drinks are dental cavities and potential enamel erosion.

According to the policy, between 56 and 85 percent of school-age children consume at least one soft drink daily. As soft drink consumption increases, milk consumption decreases, and milk is the principal source of calcium in the typical American diet. With soft drinks and fruit drinks being sold in vending machines, in school stores and at school sporting events, their availability is ubiquitous. While soft drink sales can be a substantial source of income for school districts, nutritious alternatives such as water, real fruit juices and low-fat milks are available for vending, and can help preserve school revenues.

The policy recommends that pediatricians work to eliminate sweetened soft drinks in schools. This entails educating school authorities, patients and parents about the health ramifications of soft drink consumption. The statement also recommends that:

-- Pediatricians advocate for the creation of a school nutrition advisory council as one means of ensuring that the health and nutritional interests of students form the foundation of nutritional policies in schools.

-- School districts should invite public discussion before making any decision to sign a vended food or drink contract.

-- If a school district already has a soft drink contract in place, it should be adapted so that it does not promote over-consumption by students.

-- Consumption or advertising of sweetened soft drinks within the classroom should be eliminated.

As part of the effort to reduce consumption of soft drinks in schools, the policy recommends that vending machines not be placed within the cafeteria space where lunch is sold, and that soft drinks not be sold as part of, or in competition with, the school lunch program.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 57,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical sub-specialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

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