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Monday, September 17, 2007

Probably Not Good For Your Children 

Parents are big on protecting their kids from all kinds of (real and imagined) threats, but they don't always have complete control, and they don't always get it right when they do.

Most parents would agree that sugary sodas are bad for you, and that their kids probably should drink few, if any, of them. The Washington Post reports that school vending machines have been selling fewer and fewer sodas to kids in the last couple of years; this is great news and a triumph for parents and kids health advocates, except for that last nagging detail: what kids are drinking instead.

Parents often substitute fruit juice for sodas, on the logic that fruit is good and natural and has vitamins in. The problem, of course, is that in the US at least, most commercial juices as packed every bit as full of high-fructose corn syrup as are sodas. Even no-sugar-added juices are still, for the most part, just empty high-glycemic-index calories - they have negligible amounts of real vitamins that kids don't get elsewhere (vitamin C is everywhere, and Americans get plenty of it), and no fiber or protein to speak of.

Even worse is the diet soda issue. HFCS is terrible for kids, but aspartame and sucralose can't be much better (aside from the dubious record of sweeteners for general health, there's evidence that they also screw up the body's ability to 'count calories'). So kids should probably stick to water and limited amounts of 100% juice. Which is fantastic news for the beverage people, since the profit margin for bottled water has gotta be off the charts, even compared to soda.

On the topic of hyper children, a second study has found that French maritime pine extract Pycnogenol appears to alter stress hormone levels and help control ADHD in kids. This is really interesting news, but one wonders about the long-term effects of suppressing your kids endocrine system. Also, I wonder if it might also be helpful in treating depression, which involves many of the same hormones.

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