Kids and Sugary Drinks: How Clever Packaging Can Deceive Parents
By Kristen Fischer
Though the science has shown sugary drinks are not healthy for children, fruit drinks and similar beverages accounted for more than half of all children's drink sales in 2018, according to a new report.
The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut released a report Wednesday that found that fruit drinks, as well as flavored waters with added sugars and/or low-calorie sweeteners, made up 62 percent of the year's $2.2 billion drink sales.
Healthier drinks, such as water or juices made from 100 percent juice, made up 38 percent of sales during the same year.
And plenty of money was spent on advertising these beverages. Companies spent $20.7 million to advertise children's drinks that contained added sugars. Children ages 2 to 11 saw more than twice as many TV ads for children's sweetened drinks than for children's drinks without added sweeteners.
"Beverage companies have said they want to be part of the solution to childhood obesity, but they continue to market sugar-sweetened children's drinks directly to young children on TV and through packages designed to get their attention in the store," said Jennifer L. Harris, Ph.D., MBA, lead study author and the Rudd Center's director of marketing initiatives. "Parents may be surprised to know that pediatricians, dentists and other nutrition experts recommend against serving any of these drinks to children.
Dr. Harris' team evaluated 67 drinks to see the differences between sweetened drinks and beverages without added sweeteners.
Experts say that juice and water blends without added sweeteners have started to hit the market, but the nutrition claims and images can make it difficult for parents to pinpoint which drinks are healthier.
Sugar-sweetened fruit drinks marketed to children typically included 5 percent juice or less, but 80 percent of those packages portrayed images of fruit and 60 percent claimed to have "less" or "low" sugar or "no high fructose corn syrup," the report said. Children's drinks with and without added sweeteners also had similar package sizes and types, flavor names, use of fruit imagery and front-of-package claims for products.
Low-calorie sweeteners, such as sucralose and stevia, were in 74 percent of children's sweetened drinks. They were also in drinks that contained added sugars, but there was no mention of low-calorie sweeteners on the front of packages.
Why Sugar Stays
One-third of all children's fruit drinks included 16 grams or more of sugar per serving — the same as 4 teaspoons, which is about half of the maximum amount of added sugars experts recommend for children a day.
Allison Sylvetsky Meni, Ph.D., an assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University, said a number of factors continue to make sales strong for sugary drinks. Many children like the taste, some people think as long as kids aren't drinking soda that it's healthy, and sugary options can be more affordable than healthier ones.
"The juicing trend has given new life to juice sales," added Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist from California. Many new items have come on the market, such as fresh or cold-pressed juices. Green juice blends and at-home juicing has become popular. Trendy juice blends, such as those with ginger or turmeric, are also creating a buzz in general.
Palmer believes many parents are trying to reduce sugary beverage consumption in their households, but may not realize that soda is not the only sugar-laden drink. Some fruit drinks may appear to be healthier, but many can have high levels of added sugars, she said.
What to Drink
A report released last month recommends that children under age 5 should not consume any drinks with added sugars or low-calorie sweeteners, and that they should consume limited amounts of 100 percent juice. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association created the recommendations.
Fruit juices that are 100 percent juice can be a part of a healthy diet for a child, so long as it is limited to 4 ounces per day for toddlers and up to 8 ounces per day for older kids, Palmer said.
"It's more healthful to make most of the fruit servings from whole fruits, like oranges, peaches, grapes, apples — they come with fiber and all of the nutrients in the whole plant," Palmer added. Also, diluting juice or making a flavored water can be helpful to get kids drinking healthier.
Parents should stick to giving children water, flavored unsweetened sparkling water or diluted juice, Dr. Sylvetsky Meni said.
"They need to repeatedly expose their kids to unsweetened drinks and over time, they will get used to it," Sylvetsky Meni said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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