Credits: AMBER BRACKEN/EDMONTON SUN/QMI AGENCY
In assessing the dietary habits of 1,800 preschoolers in the Edmonton area, researchers from the University of Alberta found that income level, location and time spent in front of a TV or computer screen have an affect on food choices.
More than half (54.5%) of four- and five-year-olds from poorer neighbourhoods drank at least one soda per week, compared with 40.8% of those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, the study found. The poorer children also drank less milk and more juice, which is high in sugar.
"If you're drinking a lot of soda and fruit juice, that can displace consumption of water and milk, which are important not just for quenching thirst, but for developing healthy bones and teeth, and health and
wellness in general," said study co-author Kate Storey, a registered dietitian and assistant professor at U of A.
Preschoolers who spend more than two hours of screen time a day -- more commonly seen among the lower-income kids -- also consumed more sugary drinks, according to the study published in the August issue of Public Health Nutrition.
Children from lower-income areas were more likely to eat potato chips, french fries, candy and chocolate.
The results present an "alarming pattern," said study co-author Prof. John C. Spence, who said families may be choosing high-calorie foods because they are cheap and convenient, particularly in neighbourhoods where fresh produce and healthy foods are not readily available.
The research was funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and Canadian Institutes of Health Research.