The appropriate nutrition in school age children is the cornerstone of an assured lifetime of health and as such, a constant worry for most parents. The trend is worrying with the ever-increasing cases of lawsuits against companies producing products such as “nutrient water” based on the falsified claims of additive nutrient features.
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“Nutrient water” and other sugar containing drinks such as Gatorade and vitamin water are heavily consumed because they are actively marketed. According to Wang Y et al. (2008, p.1606) and Nielsen et al. (2001, p. 208), adolescents and children take about 13 per cent of their daily caloric intake from sugar-sweetened beverages. Grade three to six school children are among this age group. They are generally children between the ages of 8 years to 13 years. Studies have shown that children taking a lot of sweetened beverages reduce their milk consumption as well as intake of calcium, iron, folate, and vitamin A (Gortmaker et al, 2009). The report then goes on to conclude as to the findings of the various journals on which of the two is the better option and finally a recommendation as to the circumstances when their use is ideal for school-going children.
The advantages and/or disadvantages of children regularly consuming “nutrient water” type drinks.
Nutrient water encompasses the fortification of drinking water with various nutrient additives like vitamins, minerals and even sugars. The process ideally involves demineralization, remineralization and the alteration of the nutrient components. Nutrient water type drinks are usually a simple mixture of salt, sugar (sucrose and dextrose) and water with food colouring and citrus based flavours. The Mayo Clinic and the W.H.O reiterate this by advocating for the use of plain drinking water over these fortified drinks since what they simply add to the body is the calories and hydration. According to Gortmaker et al. (2009), these nutrients are absorbed faster hence, an adequate source of replenishing the used up nutrients in rapidly metabolizing school children.
According to Chen (2010), they are suitable only for athletes during intense physical activity that lasts more than 90 minutes. A good example is Gatorade Quencher with up to 50 calories, carbohydrates of up to 14 grams, sodium and potassium at 110 and 30mg respectively. (Nielsen, 2004)
Another example, the Glaceau Vitamin Water (20 oz bottle) contains 130 calories and 33 grams of sugar. It has been listed among the 20 unhealthiest drinks in America. According to (Nielsen, 2004), consumption of soft drinks, fruit drinks and carbonated drinks negatively impacts oral health and bone health and is associated with obesity in young people. The nutrient water drinks also have phosphoric acid, which is deposited in bones, leading to the formation of a reduced bone density and mass. Consumption of soft drinks has among girls been linked to a higher incidence of fractures. (Gortmaker et al, 2009).
The advantages and disadvantages of children regularly consuming cow’s milk.
Calcium in milk is well absorbed by the body. That is, it has higher bioavailability than calcium from vegetables like kales, broccoli and fruits (The Nutrition Source, 2010). These sources have calcium chelating agents. The calcium is combined with phosphorus forming calcium phosphate. This compound further combines with water to form hydroxyapatite, which is responsible for the structural strength of the bones.
Calcium also helps prevent obesity in children and the risk of growing overweight in later adulthood. This is through helping in the beta-oxidation of body fat (Lifestyle Lounge Health, 2011).
Cow’s milk is also rich in proteins; approximately 3.4% by weight. Its protein quantity is higher than that of human breast milk. (The Nutrition Source, 2010) This is important for growth and development in children. Vitamin B12 in milk is important in erythropoiesis therefore, it helps prevent nutritional anaemia (The Nutrition Source, 2010) The vitamin A contained in cow’s milk is important for the growth and differentiation of mucosal tissues and their epithelial cells. (Lifestyle Lounge, 2011).
There are a few health problems that result from consuming cow’s milk. It may cause allergic reactions in a small percentage of the population; especially if the milk is not consumed in the pure form. This is common with preparations such as yoghurt. The allergy to milk presents with dizziness, nasal congestion, skin rash and itching with swelling of lips, throat or tongue (Lifestyle Lounge, 2011). Milk contains 4.7% by weight of the disaccharide, lactose. About 10% of individuals lack the intestinal enzyme lactase that digests lactose. Hence, they suffer lactose intolerance which presents with intestinal flatulence, bloating, cramps and diarrhoea (Patterson, 2000).
From the magnitude of literature given, it is evident that the pros of cow’s milk far override the cons as opposed to the overwhelming number of disadvantages attributed to nutrient water products. This report has highlighted in detail the benefits and health risks related to these products. The negative impact of regularly consuming nutrient water drinks exceeds their health benefits. Cow’s milk as opposed to nutrient water drinks is expected to have more positive health benefits to the human body. It, therefore, goes without saying that the reduction of “nutrient water” drinks would not impair the health of children and will reduce the risk of childhood obesity and dental decay.
First, there should also be a caveat as to whom the nutrients in the water are beneficial for and if possible, a sort of age limit for those suitable to take the nutrient water. In addition, punitive measures should be taken against companies defaulting this. Parents should also be encouraged to stick more to the ordinary tap water and buy less of the so called “nutrient water”. Mothers of school going children should be educated as to the benefits of the nutritional products they give their children. It is thus our recommendation that children of the grades three-to -grade-six groups should take more milk in place of nutrient water drinks because milk has more nutritional value.
“Benefits of cow’s milk”, Life style lounge: health and fitness, Web.
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“Calcium and Milk: What’s Best for Your Bones and Health?”. The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health. 2011. Web.
Chen, G., 2010, “Goodbye Gatorade: Why Public Schools are Banning Sports Drinks”. Web.
Gortmake, S., Long, M and Wang, C., 2009, ‘The Negative Impact of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages on Children’s Health’, Healthy Eating Research, pp. 4-7, Web.
Nielsen S and Popkin B., 2004, “Changes in Beverage Intake between 1977 and 2001.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 27(3): 205–210.
Patterson, K. D.,2000, “Lactose Tolerance”, The Cambridge World History of Food, Kiple, K.F. ed. Cambridge University Press, Web.
Wang Y., Bleich S. and Gortmaker S.,2008, “Increasing Caloric Contribution from Sugar-sweetened Beverages and 100% Fruit Juices Among US Children and Adolescents, 1988–2004.” Pediatrics, 121(6): 1604–1614.