"On average, children are consuming over 30 gallons of sugary drinks every year", pediatrician Natalie D. Muth, lead author of the policy statement, said. And since they're sweet and heavily marketed to kids, well it's no surprise they want them. "They are cheap, easy to find, heavily marketed, and taste sweet, so children like them", said Dr. Natalie Muth, a practicing pediatrician and registered dietitian in Carlsbad, California, who was lead author of the policy statement, published in the journal Pediatrics.
Academy experts said national dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that children and teens consume fewer than 10 percent of their calories from added sugars, but data show they actually consume 17 percent from added sugars, almost half of which come from drinks.
In a statement from the American Beverage Association (ABA), the trade group that represents the large non-alcoholic beverage companies, a spokesman told ABC News that "while soda consumption has declined by a third, the obesity rates have increased by a quarter, so if obesity was exclusively related to soda, it should've also gone down if they were directly correlated".
"Most of my work has focused on adults and we have shown that, in addition to weight gain, regular consumption of sugary beverages is associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, some cancers and premature death", said Vasanti Malik, a research scientist in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition, who was not involved in the new policy statement but led that separate study.
Will these recommendations make a difference?
Berkeley, California, for example, was the first US city to pass a tax on sugary drinks, which went into effect in 2015.
To zero in on a direct correlation between sugary drinks and mortality, the researchers controlled for other dietary factors, physical activity, and body mass index (BMI) so that any effect measured could be independently linked with sugar-sweetened beverages.
Other cities that have implemented an excise tax on sugary drinks include San Francisco, Philadelphia and Seattle.
"I talk with my patients and their families all the time about the health harms of sugary drinks and the advantage of drinking primarily water and milk".
Other cities that have passed such taxes, including Albany and Oakland, California, as well as Boulder, Colorado are also funding public health prevention programs.
"We know from the example of Berkeley, CA, the first USA city to implement such a tax, and Mexico's country-wide tax, that this approach works".
Muth said that the taxes would, in part, go back to the communities being taxed to help improve health.
In their statement, the ABA spokesman said that instead of additional taxes and regulations, "a better way to help reduce the amount of sugar consumers get from beverages...includes putting parents in the driver's seat to decide what's best for their children". By one estimate, kids and teens get about 17 percent of their calories from added sugars - and about half of those calories come from drinks.
The guidelines released Monday are not waiting for the future, though.
· Starting at a young age, make water and milk the only available drinks for your kids.
Hospitals serving as a model and implementing policies to limit or disincentivize purchase of sugary drinks.