CHICAGO -- Sweet drinks -- whether Kool-Aid with sugar or all-natural apple juice -- seem to raise the risk of pudgy preschoolers getting fatter, new research suggests.
That may come as a surprise to parents who pride themselves on seeking out fruit drinks with no added sugar.
''Juice is definitely a part of this," said lead researcher Jean Welsh of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While fruit juice does have vitamins, nutritionists say it's inferior to fresh fruit. The new US dietary guidelines urge consumers away from juice, suggesting that they eat whole fruit instead.
''Sweet drinks are a source of added sugar in the diet," said Welsh, who added that preschoolers were better off snacking on fruit or drinking water or milk.
Welsh's research, published in the February issue of Pediatrics, found that for 3- and 4-year-olds who are already on the heavy side, drinking something sweet once or twice a day doubled their risk of becoming seriously overweight a year later.
The sweet drinks seemed to have little effect, however, on children of normal weight.