Determinants of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption among Low-Income Children: Are There Differences by Race/Ethnicity, Age, and Sex?

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Dec;117(12):1900-1920. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2017.03.013. Epub 2017 May 8.


Background: Understanding determinants of high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), a highly prevalent obesogenic behavior, will help build effective customized public health interventions.

Objective: Our aim was to identify child and parent lifestyle and household demographic factors predictive of high SSB consumption frequency in children from low-income, ethnically diverse communities that may help inform public health interventions.

Design: We used a cross-sectional telephone household survey.

Participants/setting: Participants were 717 boys and 686 girls aged 3 to 18 years old from the New Jersey Childhood Obesity Study living in five low-income cities (Camden, New Brunswick, Newark, Trenton, and Vineland). The adult most knowledgeable about household food shopping completed a questionnaire over the telephone inquiring about their and their child's dietary and physical activity habits, and household-, parent-, and child-level demographics.

Main outcome measures: Child's SSB consumption frequency was measured.

Statistical analysis performed: Multivariate ordered logit models were designed to investigate a variety of variables hypothesized to affect the frequency of SSB consumption. Exploratory stratified analyses by race, sex, and age were also conducted.

Results: Eight percent of our study participants never consumed SSBs, 45% consumed SSBs at least once per day, and 23% consumed twice or more per day. SSB consumption was higher among children 12 to 18 years vs 3 to 5 years (P<0.0001), of non-Hispanic black vs non-Hispanic white race/ethnicity (P=0.010), who were moderate fast food consumers vs never consumers (P=0.003), and those whose parents were high vs low SSB consumers (P<0.0001). Living in a non-English-speaking household (P=0.030), having a parent with a college or higher education vs less than high school (P=0.003), and having breakfast 6 to 7 days/wk vs never to 2 days/wk or less were associated with lower SSB consumption (P=0.001).

Conclusions: We identified a number of household-, parent-, and child-level predictors of SSB consumption, which varied by race, sex, and age, useful for building customized interventions targeting certain behaviors in ethnically diverse, low-income children.

Keywords: Children; Household determinants; Lifestyle determinants; Low-income population; Sugar-sweetened beverages.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Beverages*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity
  • Exercise
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • New Jersey / ethnology
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritive Sweeteners / administration & dosage*
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pediatric Obesity / ethnology
  • Poverty*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sugars / administration & dosage*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telephone


  • Nutritive Sweeteners
  • Sugars