December 4, 2020
Student Survey shows troubling sugary drink trend among Minnesota students
Daily intake of sugary drinks raises long-term risk for serious and costly diseases
An in-depth analysis of the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey found that nearly half of Minnesota students consume sugary drinks at least once a day, increasing their risk of becoming obese, and their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular complications.
Any of these conditions, along with other chronic diseases, also put youth at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
The analysis also found significant disparities among Minnesota students. Those who identified themselves as Black, American Indian and/or people of color reported consuming greater amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages per day compared to white students. Also, Minnesota students experiencing economic hardship were twice as likely to report having sugary drinks three or more times per day compared to the average for all students.
“Obesity and other chronic health conditions were a challenge for us well before the COVID-19 pandemic, and during the pandemic these issues have taken on a new significance,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said. “Even as we focus on fighting COVID-19, we can’t afford to lose sight of the importance of addressing the chronic conditions that make people more susceptible to all sorts of health problems.”
One 20-ounce soda contains 17 teaspoons of added sugars. That's nearly three times the maximum recommended by the American Heart Association for children ages 2-18 to have in one day.
The analysis also found that students who reported having prediabetes were two times more likely to report having sugary drinks three or more times per day compared to students without prediabetes. Adolescents and young adults who develop Type 2 diabetes experience more severe symptoms, more rapidly, and lose approximately 15 years from average life expectancy.
“Having just one sugary drink per day increases a child’s risk of becoming obese by 55%, which puts them at long-term risk for many serious and costly diseases and illnesses, including COVID-19 and premature death,” said Laura Perdue, and MDH nutrition policy coordinator.
Evidence indicates one of the key factors in the continued consumption of sugary drinks by youth is advertising and marketing by the sugary drink industry. Advertising exceeded $1 billion in 2018 in the U.S., according to a 2020 report by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. The report noted that African American children and teens see more than twice as many sugary drink ads as their white counterparts due, in part, to advertising during programming that is disproportionately viewed by African American youth. Sugary drinks are also heavily advertised on Spanish-language television networks.
These findings will serve as a call to action for communities, parents and caregivers to work together to encourage young people to make healthy choices and limit access to sugary beverages. Whenever possible, healthier options, such as water and milk, should be provided.
“It’s natural to seek comfort during stressful times like the ones we are in now, and many people, including children, report that they are snacking more, eating less fresh food and more sugary snacks and junk food,” Perdue said. “Parents and caregivers who are looking for support to offer their kids healthy food and drinks during the pandemic can find helpful tips and advice on the Minnesota Department of Health’s website.”
For more information, visit Healthy Eating During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
MDH works to ensure that safe drinking water is available to all Minnesotans and encourages families and children to drink healthy beverages and limit sugary beverages to one a week or less. Parents and caregivers can find more information on the MDH Sugary Beverages webpage.
The 2019 Minnesota Student Survey included 170,000 Minnesota students in grades 5, 8, 9 and 11. Since 1989, the survey has been administered every three years to students in regular public elementary and secondary schools, charter schools and tribal schools.