Three New Studies Add to Link of Sugary Drinks to Obesity

September 25, 2012 — Three studies examining the role of sugary beverages in obesity were reported in the September 21st New England Journal of Medicine. The association between sugar-sweetened beverages and body weight was examined in children in one study, in adolescents in another, and in a large adult population in the third study. Each study adds to our understanding of the association between sugar-sweetened drinks and obesity. 

In the clinical study involving adolescents conducted by Cara Ebbeling, Ph.D. and colleagues, 224 adolescents with excess weight or obesity who normally consumed sugar-sweetened beverages were randomly assigned to either a control group who made no changes in beverage selection or to an experimental group. The experimental group received a one year intervention designed to reduce drinking of sugar-sweetened beverages. The study concluded that the increase in BMI was smaller in the experimental group than in the control group, but not at the 2-year follow-up. Read study

The second study examined whether the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, which is associated with overweight, is because liquid sugars do not lead to a sense of satiety, so then consuming other foods is not reduced. If sugary beverages were replaced by non-caloric beverages would that diminish weight gain? Proof of this notion is lacking, so in this study the authors developed a trial of sugar-free or sugar-sweetened beverages and body weight in children. The conclusion from this 18-month trial involving 641 primarily normal-weight children from 4 years 10 months to nearly 12 years of age was that concealed replacement of sugar-containing beverages with non-caloric beverages reduced weight gain and fat accumulation in normal-weight children.Read study

Increases in the drinking sugar-sweetened beverages have paralleled the rise in obesity prevalence, but whether the intake of such beverages interacts with a genetic tendency to overweight is unknown and was the subject of the third study. This prospective study examined three cohorts of 33,000 adults and showed that the genetic association with adiposity appeared to be more apparent with greater intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. Read study