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Sugary drinks blamed for impaired learning

The prevalence of obesity has doubled in teenage boys in the past six years.

THOUSANDS of pupils from across the country have returned to school, and with the excitement has come the news that some pupils are far exceeding the recommended daily sugar intake.

South Africa’s recently released National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES) refers to the poor state of children’s school lunches in the country and of particular concern, according to the report, is the high intake of sugary cooldrinks. Researchers found that about  two in three learners buy sugary drinks at least twice a week, with each soft drink containing up to 55 grams of sugar. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), that is 40 grams more sugar than the recommended maximum daily limit for children.

Drinking too many sugary drinks is considered to be the leading cause of obesity in adolescents, especially among schoolboys. The study points out that the prevalence of obesity has doubled in teenage boys the past six years, making them more prone to chronic lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes.

According to nutritional experts, these beverages are loaded with empty calories and provide little or no essential nutrients. They are linked not only to weight gain but also to poor health and tooth decay in children. Ernest du Toit, spokesperson of the SA Rooibos Council, says the indigenous Rooibos tea offers a healthy alternative to sugary drinks. Nutritionists recommend water or herbal teas as healthier alternatives to fizzy drinks or sugar-filled fruit juices, with Rooibos tea topping the list.

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