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Schools Still Keen on Sugary Sodas

Students’ access to sugary sodas and other high-calorie beverages in elementary schools is on the rise, despite national recommendations against them.

Nov. 1, 2010 -- Students’ access to sugary sodas and other high-calorie beverages in elementary schools is on the rise, despite national recommendations against them.

A new survey shows that sugary sodas, sugar-sweetened fruit juice, higher-fat milk, and other high-calorie beverages are still widely available in most elementary schools, even though the Institute of Medicine recommends that elementary schools offer only water, 100% juice (4-oz serving), and nonfat or 1% flavored or unflavored milk (8-oz serving).

Researchers found during the 2008-2009 school year that 61% of elementary school students could buy beverages in one or more venues, such as in the cafeteria during lunch a la carte, from vending machines, and in school stores. That’s up from 49% of schools in the 2006-2007 school year.

“Because children spend many hours in school, changes are needed to make the school environment healthier by limiting the availability of high-calorie beverages,” write researcher Lindsey Turner, PhD, and colleagues in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.

Access to High-Calorie Drinks Changing

In the study, researchers surveyed public and private elementary schools during the 2006-2007, 2007-2008, and 2008-2009 school years.

Researchers say the good news is that the number of public school students with access to only beverages recommended by the national guidelines (water, 100% juice, and 1% or nonfat milk) increased from 10% to 16% from the 2006-2007 to 2008-2009 school year.

In addition, the study showed most public school students still had access to higher-fat milk at lunch, although the percentage decreased from 78% in 2006-2007 to 68% in 2008-2009.  “Our results show some encouraging changes in the availability of healthy beverages in schools, but there are many more opportunities for change,” write the researchers, “… much work remains to be done to reduce the availability of unhealthy beverages in elementary schools.”

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