‘Poor’ children more likely to be obese
HALF of babies from poorer Australian families are consuming sugary drinks, like fruit juice, fizzy drinks and cordial, before their first birthday, increasing their risk of obesity.
A study of 3000 children found they were also twice as likely to be given savoury snacks than those from wealthier backgrounds.
Melbourne researchers were shocked at the alarming number of babies drinking sugary drinks when they should be having only milk or water.
Children's taste preferences and their dietary habits are established at an early age. Those who are overweight when they are young are likely to be overweight as adults.
Deakin University lead researcher Alexandra Chung said they also found a quarter of children from wealthier families drank sweet beverages. In families from poorer backgrounds, two-thirds of children had a sugary drink in the 24 hours before the study.
"The huge difference in sweet drink consumption in the first year of life between the two groups was the most alarming finding," Ms Chung said. "Children under one should not have any sweet drinks."
For older children, the dietary guidelines recommend only half a cup of fruit juice as an occasional drink.
They also found 70 per cent of all children ate cakes, sweet biscuits and doughnuts when they were two or three years old.
"But when we looked at savoury snacks like pies, sausage rolls and chips, we found kids from poorer families were consuming more of those foods at all ages," Ms Chung said.
One in three children from poor families were overweight or obese at age 10 or 11, compared with one in six for wealthy families. The higher rate of sweet drink and savoury food consumption was to blame for 11 per cent of the weight disparity between rich and poor families.
Ms Chung said changes to food labelling, reducing junk food marketing aimed at children and policies that encouraged drinking water, such as a tax on sugary drinks, could help parents.
Mother of three Ali Callinan has a simple approach to limiting the amount of junk food her children Maggie, 5, Paddy, 9, and Emily, 11 eat.
"We just don't have it in the house and it removes the temptation," she said.
She also teaches her children that sugary drinks and cake are for special occasions.
The research is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.