Research: Latino kids consume “above average” amount of sugary drinks

New research, video and infographic highlight strategies to reduce consumption of sugary drinks by Latino kids

SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 1, 2013) — Latino kids consume more soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks and other sugary drinks on average than do their white or African-American peers, putting them at greater risk of obesity and diabetes.

Raising the price of sugary drinks could reduce consumption among Latino kids and potentially improve weight outcomes, according to a new package of research materials produced jointly by Salud America! and Bridging the Gap, two national research programs funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Salud America! is based at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The new “Sugary Drinks & Latino Kids” research materials start with an in-depth review of the latest science on sugary drink consumption by Latino kids and how pricing strategies could influence consumption. The materials also provide policy implications based on that research.

The full package of materials also includes an original animated video and infographic.

Data shows that Latino kids increased consumption of sugary drinks between 1991 and 2008. By age 2, 74 percent of Latino kids have had a sugary drink, compared with 45 percent of white kids.

By high school, 22 percent of Latino kids have three or more sugary drinks a day (versus 16 percent of white kids).

Strategies to alter sugary drink prices – such as sugary drink taxes, exclusion of sugary drinks from food assistance programs and subsidization of healthier beverages – have been suggested to reduce consumption.

“One study found that higher sugary drink prices were linked to lower body weight in school children, with a greater impact on Latino kids,” said Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., director of Salud America!, a national network of stakeholders seeking research and environmental solutions to Latino obesity. Salud America! is based at the Institute for Health Promotion Research, part of the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Sugary drink taxes, for example, have been proposed in several areas, with many proposals earmarking new revenues for obesity-prevention and other health-promotion efforts.

While projections about the effects of such a tax vary, much research concludes that a tax higher than current sales tax rates would have some impact on consumption of sugary drinks.

For instance, one study found that a penny-per-ounce tax (i.e., about a 20 percent price increase if fully passed on to consumers) would decrease sugary drink consumption by up to 24 percent, which, researchers predict, would decrease obesity and diabetes rates.

“It is important for public health to limit the amount of added sugar consumed by Latino youths, given the impact of this added sugar on obesity, diabetes, liver disease and cardiovascular disease now and into the future,” said Frank Chaloupka, Ph.D., distinguished professor of economics and public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and project director for Bridging the Gap.

The new research package is the last of six Salud America! packages this year, each of which focused on a specific topic related to Latino childhood obesity:

healthier school snacks;
better food in the neighborhood;
active spaces;
active play;
healthier marketing; and
sugary drinks.

Each topic’s package contains: a research review, an assessment of all available scientific evidence on the topic; an issue brief, a short summary of the research review; an animated video narrated by Latino children; and an infographic, a visual summary of the topic.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health funding. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 29,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

Salud America! is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Founded in 2007, the program aims to educate and support researchers, decision-makers, community leaders, and the public in contributing toward healthier Latino communities and seeking environmental and policy solutions to the epidemic of Latino childhood obesity. The network is directed by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. For more information, visit

Bridging the Gap is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program aims to improve the understanding of how policies and environmental factors influence diet, physical activity and obesity among youth, as well as youth tobacco use. Bridging the Gap is a joint project of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute for Health Research and Policy and the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. For more information, visit

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For more than 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

The Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio investigates the causes and solutions to the unequal impact of cancer and chronic disease among certain populations, including Latinos, in South Texas and the nation. The IHPR, founded in 2006, uses evidence-guided research, training and community outreach to improve the health of those at a disadvantage due to race/ethnicity or social determinants. Visit the IHPR at Please visit our blog or follow us @SaludToday on social media.

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