- Instead of drinking milk, water and natural fruit juices,
which are healthier and more nutritious, children are consuming more
beverages and getting fatter.
- The U.S. study, published this week in The Lancet medical
journal, says the soft drink-obesity link is independent of the food
eat, how much television or videos they watch and the amount they
- Experts, who called the findings "enormously
have long believed that sweetened drinks were contributing to the rising
obesity epidemic among children, but said there has been no reliable
of a link.
- "These are estimates and the study doesn't tell
us the importance of soft drinks relative to the other factors that
to obesity, but these data suggest that people aren't compensating"
for the extra calories by cutting back on eating, said the study's lead
investigator, Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Boston
- France Bellisle from France's Institute of Health and
Medical Research, said the study provided "convincing" new
about the relationship between sugar and weight gain in children.
- The prevalence of obesity among children in the United
States increased by 100 percent between 1980 and 1994.
- The added weight they are gaining poses a real health
risk because childhood obesity leads to adult obesity and chronic health
problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
- STUDY DETAILS
- The soft drink study involved tracking 548 children aged
11 or 12 from public schools across Massachusetts for two school years
until May 1997.
- The researchers monitored how many sweet drinks the
consumed and changes in their body mass index (BMI), a standard method
used to measure body fat.
- They found that each sugared soft drink the children
consumed each day inched their BMI up by 0.18 points.
- If they increased their daily soft drink intake, each
extra soda made them 60 percent more likely to become obese, regardless
of how many sodas they were drinking before.
- Only 7 percent of the children did not change their soft
drink intake over the two years. Fifty-seven percent increased their
with a quarter of them drinking two or more extra cans a day, the study
- Ludwig and his colleagues found that adolescent boys
were the biggest consumers of soft drinks.
- Soft drinks tracked in the study included regular sodas,
Hawaiian Punch, lemonade, Kool-Aid, sweetened iced tea or other sugared
- Pure fruit juice intake was also tracked, but that did
not account for the effect, the study said.
- "The odds of becoming obese increased significantly
for each additional daily serving of sugar-sweetened drink," the study
- An increase in diet soda consumption made the children
less likely to become obese.
- LOADING UP ON SUGAR
- Dr. Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity
Task Force, an independent worldwide scientific organization which was
not connected with the study, said the evidence so far indicates that sugar
is slightly less fattening than fat, but that sugar in drinks can be
because the beverages are less filling than food.
- He said one explanation might be that while people tend
to eat less at a meal if they have overeaten at a previous sitting, evening
out the calories, they don't tend to do that if the extra calories came
from drinks. They tend to eat a normal-sized meal despite having loaded
up on sugar from soft drinks.
- "The average teenager is getting 15 to 20 teaspoons
a day of added sugar from soft drinks alone. Consumption rates among
have doubled in the last decade," Ludwig said.
- In a 1998 report on the issue, the U.S. health lobby
group Center for Science in the Public Interest called soft drinks
- Sugary drinks are not the only cause of the alarming
rise in childhood obesity. Studies have shown that children are also less
active and eat diets higher in fat than previously.
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