Beverage Consumption Among Youth in the United States, 2013-2016

Kirsten A. Herrick, Ph.D., M.Sc, NCHS Epidemiologist

Questions for Kirsten A. Herrick, Ph.D., M.Sc, Epidemiologist and Lead Author of “Beverage Consumption Among Youth in the United States, 2013-2016

Q: What made you decide to focus on what children in the United States drink for this study?

KH: In a previous report, we described the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth. This current study looks at beverage consumption in a different way. We are looking at all types of beverages, rather than focusing on only those that contain sugar or calories (energy.) Specifically in this new report, we look at beverage types by amount (grams) rather than by calories.


Q: Was there a finding in your new report that you hadn’t expected and that really surprised you?

KH: While there was nothing in this report that I hadn’t expected to see or that was surprising to me, the data results in this analysis do offer some new perspective. A new contribution from this research is a look at beverage consumption among non-Hispanic Asian youth and how this compares to other race and Hispanic origin groups. A notable finding is that non-Hispanic Asian youth drink more water compared to other groups.


Q: What differences or similarities did you see between or among various demographic groups in this analysis?

KH: We observed quite a few variations among demographic groups in our analysis of what youth in the United States are drinking. One interesting observation was that the contribution of milk and 100% juice to all beverage consumption, decreased with age—while the contribution of water and soft-drinks increased with age. While the types of beverages boys and girls drink are similar, we found that for Asian youth water accounted for the largest share of all beverages consumed compared with other race groups. The amount of beverages consumed as soft drinks was largest for non-Hispanic Black youth compared with other race groups, and the contribution of milk to overall beverage consumption is lowest among non-Hispanic Black youth in America.


Q: What would you say is the take-home message of this report?

KH: I think the real take-home message of this report is that beverage consumption is not the same for all U.S. youth. Since beverages contribute to hydration, energy and vitamin and mineral intake, these choices can impact diet quality and total caloric intake. It is very valuable for the U.S. Public Health Community to have this information, which can help guide their important work throughout America. I think it’s valuable information for families to have as well—and for youth in the U.S. to also be aware of the potential impact of these choices.


Q: What type of trend data do you have for U.S. children’s beverage consumption, and how has it changed over time, for example the last 20 years?

KH: While this report did not look at trends, the reason it does not present trends can tell us a lot about beverage consumption analysis over the years. The types of beverages available today are different than 20 years ago or in other years past. So trends wouldn’t strictly be comparing the same things over time.

Plus, this new report isn’t directly comparable with previous reports. For example, in this new Data Brief we looked at soft drinks and defined them as diet and non-diet forms of soda and fruit drinks. So this soft drink category is not equivalent to sugar-sweetened beverages—which has been the focus of some of our earlier analyses. Also, many past reports where we might have looked for trends—were interested in the energy from beverages. But water, an important beverage for hydration, doesn’t have calories, and therefore is often left out of earlier discussions and analyses about beverage consumption. In our new report we looked at total beverage consumption by amount (in grams) so we could include ALL beverages, not just those that contribute to calorie consumption.

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