Though many say weve heard it before, the latest studies confirming the association between sugary drinks and weight gain give policy makers hope that the mounting evidence helps educate the public.
Two studies just published in the New England Journal of Medicine affirm the policy makers who promote limiting sugary drinks as a first step toward tackling the growing obesity problems facing most of the developed and developing world.
The first study, done by researchers at the VU University Amsterdam, involved 641 normal-weight children between about 5 and 12 years of age. The children were randomly assigned to receive either an 8 ounce (250 mL) sugar-sweetened or a noncaloric drink (both disguised to look the same) each day for 18 months.
After the 18 months of the study all the children were measured. Those who received the drinks without sugar had significantly lower weight gain and fat accumulation than those who drank the sugar-sweetened beverages.
In the second study, conducted by researchers at the Boston Children’s Hospital, 224 overweight and obese teenagers who regularly consumed sugar-sweetened drinks were divided into two groups. The first group received a one-year intervention (noncaloric drinks delivered to their homes and a series of check-in visits, messages of encouragement, and calls to the parents) while the other half served as the controls.
After a year, the intervention group had significantly lower weight gain than the control group. At the end of two years, both groups were again measured. This time, however, there was no difference in the weight gain between the two groups. Researchers said this was because the intervention group returned to drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.
What’s obvious from both studies is that consuming a lot of sugar, including sugary soft drinks, leads to weight gain, which can lead to disease. It’s no big surprise, but getting the data and the convincing research is one more step toward educating the public, something that public health officials are desperate to do.
Regulations, such as New York City’s ban on large sugary drinks (to go into effect March 2013), have been met with criticism from both citizens and business interests. It will take some very concerted efforts—and loud voices—to get the message across: we are what we eat—and drink.