Thu, Jul 26, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan youth rank high on bad drinks

UNHEALTHY HABIT A non-profit organization said that nearly 45 percent of youth drink between one and three store-bought beverages daily

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

From left, Child Welfare League Foundation director Alicia Wang, entertainer Bacy Tang, a group of children and Kangtai Hospital director Wang Pu-shan yesterday hold up signs at a press conference to encourage healthier drinking habits among Taiwanese children.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwan ranks second in the world, only behind Israel, in the percentage of its minors who regularly drink unhealthy beverages, oftentimes as a replacement for water, the Child Welfare League Foundation said yesterday.

A nonprofit organization dedicated to improving child welfare, the foundation released the results of a survey conducted among 1,027 fourth and fifth-grade students nationwide last month, claiming that unhealthy drinking habits among youth are some of the worst in the world.

"Amid all this hot weather, sweet, icy beverages seem pretty great," foundation director Alicia Wang (王育敏) said.

"But," she added, "every swig is also a huge intake of sugar, calories and artificial colors. For growing boys and girls, that could equate to all kinds of health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions."

Survey results show that nearly 45 percent of youth drink one to three bottles of store-bought beverages daily, a foundation press release said. Similar studies conducted by the WHO show that only Israel ranks higher, with 52 percent of children drinking unhealthy beverages daily, the release said. Scotland and the US rank behind Taiwan with 44 percent and 40 percent, respectively, it reported.

The foundation's survey also found that one out of five children in Taiwan drink more beverages than water, inviting an array of health problems.

Oftentimes, Wang said, beverage ingredients such as caffeine prevent the water contained in the beverage from being effectively absorbed by the body. This leads to a destructive cycle in which children continue drinking the beverage to quench thirst and other bodily needs for water that the beverage can't satisfy, and which the beverage can very well exacerbate, she said.

According to the release, nearly 71 percent of children fail to drink the minimum daily requirement for water, 1,500g, while nearly 11 percent drink less than 500g daily.

Wang blamed such drinking habits on parents and schools. While parents typically influence their children with their own unhealthy drinking habits and fail to create an environment conducive to drinking water over beverages, schools often do not provide sanitary drinking fountains, Wang said.

She recommended adding pure honey and lemons to water to induce children to drink at least six glasses daily. She also criticized teachers who don't allow their students to sip water during class.

"We at the foundation feel that drinking water is as natural and necessary an activity as any," she said.

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