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Open Access Research article

Sugar sweetened beverage consumption by Australian children: Implications for public health strategy

Katherine Hafekost*, Francis Mitrou, David Lawrence and Stephen R Zubrick

Author Affiliations

Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, PO Box 855, West Perth WA 6872, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:950  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-950

Published: 22 December 2011

Abstract

Background

High consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) has been linked to unhealthy weight gain and nutrition related chronic disease. Intake of SSB among children remains high in spite of public health efforts to reduce consumption, including restrictions on marketing to children and limitations on the sale of these products in many schools. Much extant literature on Australian SSB consumption is out-dated and lacks information on several key issues. We sought to address this using a contemporary Australian dataset to examine purchase source, consumption pattern, dietary factors, and demographic profile of SSB consumption in children.

Methods

Data were from the 2007 Australian National Children's Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, a representative random sample of 4,834 Australian children aged 2-16 years. Mean SSB intake by type, location and source was calculated and logistic regression models were fitted to determine factors associated with different levels of consumption.

Results

SSB consumption was high and age-associated differences in patterns of consumption were evident. Over 77% of SSB consumed was purchased via supermarkets and 60% of all SSB was consumed in the home environment. Less than 17% of SSB was sourced from school canteens and fast food establishments. Children whose parents had lower levels of education consumed more SSB on average, while children whose parents had higher education levels were more likely to favour sweetened juices and flavoured milks.

Conclusions

SSB intake by Australian children remains high and warrants continued public health attention. Evidence based and age-targeted interventions, which also recognise supermarkets as the primary source of SSB, are recommended to reduce SSB consumption among children. Additionally, education of parents and children regarding the health consequences of high consumption of both carbonated and non-carbonated SSBs is required.