More than a quarter of children aged 12 to 18 months (26%) regularly consume fruit juices and soft drinks, according to a new report from the UK’s Department of Health (DoH), which includes survey data on the diets of children aged 4 to 18 months.
Fruit juice was consumed by 8% of children aged 4 to 6 months rising to 26% for those aged 12 to 18 months, the report found. Average daily intakes were 11g of juice for those aged 4 to 6 months, and 50g for those aged 12 to 18 months.
It also found that the proportions of children consuming full sugar soft drinks was very similar to those consuming juice, ranging from 6% to 26% across the age groups. However, soft drinks were consumed in larger amounts, with average daily intake of 43g for those aged 4 to 6 months and 158g for those aged 12 to 18 months.
Responding to the report, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation Dr Nigel Carter said: "The most important message to remember is it is not the amount of sugar children eat or drink, but the frequency of sugary foods and drinks in their diets.”
“…Fruit juices are becoming increasingly popular and the fruit content can make them seem like a good idea. However, they contain very high levels of sugar and acid and so can do a lot of damage to the teeth.”
The charity recommends still water or milk for infants if they have a drink between meals.
British Soft Drink Association director general Gavin Partington said in a statement:
“The biggest factor in determining dental health – bigger even than levels of sugar consumption – is how well you look after your teeth. Parents should teach their children to brush their teeth twice a day and take them to the dentist regularly.
“It is perfectly possible for children to enjoy soft drinks alongside good dental health. In keeping with the advice from dentists, our research found that 88 per cent of soft drinks are consumed with meals.
“Like all food and drink, soft drinks should be consumed as part of a balanced diet and an active lifestyle.”
In addition to juice and soft drinks, the report found that 62% of children aged 12 to 18 months consumed ‘sugar, preserves and confectionery’.
The full report from the DoH is available online here.