Irene van Dyk calls time out on sugary drinks

A new campaign target kids directly, educating them about the risks of frequent sugary drinks - including rotten teeth ...
CHUTIMA CHAOCHAIYA

A new campaign target kids directly, educating them about the risks of frequent sugary drinks - including rotten teeth and diabetes.

Thirsty kids need water not sugar, former Silver Fern Irene van Dyk says.

"When you sweat, you don't sweat Coke, Fanta or Sprite, you sweat water. To replenish your body, you need water."

The goal shoot and teacher said, unlike a marathon runner or endurance athletes, children never need to consume a sports drink.

Ex-Silver Fern goal shoot Irene van Dyk.
CHRIS SKELTON

Ex-Silver Fern goal shoot Irene van Dyk.

Van Dyk is the ambassador for a new campaign aimed at telling children sugary drinks are a major threat to their health. Not only did the 16 teaspoons of sugar in the average bottle of fizz risk cavities, if consumed regularly, it boosted their chances of life-long obesity and related illnesses like diabetes.

Rather than a soft drink, children should switch to water or milk. Fizz should only ever be a very occasional treat - something van Dyk practiced in her own home.

"I really have a thing about [energy drinks] - I told my kids if I ever see them with one, I'll 'body slam' them."

Although getting the message out was important, van Dyk also supported government regulation, including sugary drink taxes and stronger restrictions on marketing to children.

"I think we can be a lot tougher on this ... They have the money to make ads look absolutely incredible. And the [Coca Cola] bottles with the names on them, they really target the individual.

"It's really hard to fight against those things, but it is about sending healthy messages."

NZ Dental Association chief executive David Crum said the rising advertising spend of beverage companies, and their sponsorship of popular teams like the All Blacks, was one cause of the growing number of young children with tooth decay.

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"Annually, 35,000 New Zealand kids have teeth extracted [and] 5050 general anaesthetics were given last year to children aged 7 years and under for dental surgery ... These are appalling figures."

Many education programmes have tried to highlight the risks of sugary drinks, which carry no nutritional value, to parents and government.

But Switch to Water gets this message directly to kids, van Dyk said.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said he was not considering a tax on sugary drinks. "The jury is still out on whether a tax on sugar sweetened beverages actually reduces rates of obesity."

Coleman, who launched the Childhood Obesity Plan last month, said advertising should not undermine the wellbeing of children or government nutrition policy nor encourage over-consumption of any food.

Coca Cola Amatil could not be reached for comment.

 - Stuff

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