Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sugar Sweetened Beverages and Tooth Decay in the YK Delta

09/09/14, Bethel, Alaska: Sugar sweetened beverage consumption in the YK is implicated as the driving force in the Alaska Native childhood tooth decay epidemic. Sugar sweetened beverages include instant Tang, Kool Aid, Sunny Delight, energy drinks, and soda. Tap water is either unavailable or tastes bad in the YK.

Sugar sweetened beverages are relatively inexpensive and abundantly available in village grocery stores. In addition, while it is well known that soda pop contains high concentrations of sugar, many parents are unaware of the amount of hidden sugars present in juices and other sugared beverages.

Our research team, consisting of collaborators from UW, UAF, and YKHC, received pilot funding from the UW Royalty Research Fund. Our goal was to use a novel biomarker to measure sugar sweetened beverage (added sugar) consumption in childrens' diets and to develop a community-based intervention aimed at reducing added sugar intake by targeting sugar sweetened beverage intake.

In January 2014, we traveled to Bethel and spent about 2 weeks enrolling study participants. We enrolled 54 children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 into our study. We spent the next few months processing and analyzing data. Our findings indicate that YK children consume the equivalent of 5 cans of Coke each day. This is over 16 times the maximum amount of added sugars recommended for children. Parents and community members were stunned.

During our 2-day stay in Bethel, we presented study findings to parents of participants, disseminated study findings to YKHC health providers and community stakeholders, recruited members of a Community Planning Group (CPG), and convened our first CPG meeting to generate a series of community-based interventions.

The trip was very successful and we generated a preliminary intervention. In the next few months, we will work with our CPG and YKHC partners to fine tune our intervention and apply for NIH research funding.

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