Sugary drinks such as soda and flavoured milk are popular among school-going children. But with the health risks associated with high sugar consumption, should schools be doing more to promote a healthier lifestyle among students?
That’s one problem New York City is now grappling with.
The city’s Department of Education is reportedly debating whether or not to ban chocolate milk from its public schools, dividing opinions in the process.
According to the New York Post, DOE sources said the proposed ban stemmed out of health concerns, including the sugar content in chocolate milk.
One DOE source was quoted saying: “The thinking is that these kids are already getting too much sugar, why are they getting it in their milk?’’, adding that higher-ups “are discussing what to do and how to do it.’’
If the city goes through with the ban, it will join the likes of San Francisco and Washington, DC, who have already banned flavored milk in the US.
But the proposed ban has divided students and parents.
One parent, Joanna, argued that removing chocolate milk won’t solve schools’ dietary problems, adding that they also sell juices and sodas, which are no better.
“The real problem is that New York City lunches are unhealthy in general, all prepackaged and full of preservatives,” she was quoted saying.
Meanwhile, another parent, Luke, opined: “Not to be a health nazi, but it’s not the worst idea.’’
High-sugar content in flavoured milk
“Childhood obesity is a rapidly worsening epidemic in the US,” notes one study.
Quoting the Department of Health, CBS New York noted that four in every 10 elementary school children are overweight or obese.
“The department has been in favor of the ban for quite some time now, posting on its website that children who drink chocolate milk twice a day consume about 80 grams of sugar each week. That adds up to six pounds of sugar a year,” said the report.
Meanwhile, according to reports, some brands of flavoured milk contain a higher amount of sugar than soda. In Australia, an analysis by LiveLighter found that more than 90 brands of chilled flavoured dairy milks contain more than a whole day’s worth of added sugar.
LiveLighter Campaign Manager and registered dietitian Alison McAleese was quoted saying: “Given the size of some of the flavoured milk drinks sold in store, you could be consuming more than nine teaspoons of added sugar in just one drink – that’s almost as much as a can of cola.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends no more than six teaspoons (about 25 grams) of added sugar in a day.
“You would never add nine teaspoons of sugar to milk yourself, so understanding the huge sugar content of these drinks should come as a wake-up call to consumers and help with changing habits. For many workers and students, morning tea includes a stop at the nearest convenience store or servo for an iced coffee or chocolate milk.
“These drinks may seem like an easy go-to option, but we want people to realise they could easily be knocking back an entire day’s worth of sugar with just one drink,” she said.
Studies, like this one, have suggested that high sugar consumption, including in beverages, is linked to increased risk of early death.
Meanwhile, WHO notes that “noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the world’s leading cause of death: they were responsible for an estimated 41 million (73 percent) of the 56 million deaths in 2017.” They added that “Modifiable risk factors such as unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are some of the most common causes of NCDs, including obesity.”