Sugary Liquids in the Baby Bottle: Risk for Child Undernutrition and Severe Tooth Decay in Rural El Salvador


Priyanka Achalu Bathsheba Turton Lucy Luna Karen Sokal-Gutierrez


As communities worldwide shift from consuming traditional diets to more processed snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), increases in child obesity and tooth decay and persistence of undernutrition are particularly apparent in Latin American countries. Further evidence of shared risk factors between child undernutrition and poor oral health outcomes is needed to structure more effective health interventions for children’s nutrition. This study aims to identify dietary, oral health, and sociodemographic risk factors for child undernutrition and severe early childhood caries (sECC) among a convenience sample of 797 caregiver–child pairs from rural Salvadoran communities. Caregiver interviews on child dietary and oral health practices were conducted, and their children’s height, weight, and dental exam data were collected. Multivariable regression analyses were performed using RStudio (version 1.0.143). Caregiver use of SSBs in the baby bottle was identified as a common significant risk factor for child undernutrition (p = 0.011) and sECC (p = 0.047). Early childhood caries (p = 0.023) was also a risk factor for developing undernutrition. Future maternal–child health and nutrition programs should coordinate with oral health interventions to discourage feeding children SSBs in the baby bottle and to advocate for policies limiting SSB marketing to young children and their families.

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health