Obesity Linked to Soda Consumption in Adolescents
Children who consume an extra soft drink a day have a 60% greater chance of becoming obese, a new study in The Lancet finds. The AP/Nando Times reports that the increased risk of obesity is not affected by the food children eat, the amount of television they watch or their exercise habits (Ross, AP/Nando Times, 2/15). The study monitored 548 "ethnically diverse schoolchildren" from October, 1995, to May, 1997. Researchers focused on the children's consumption of "sugar-sweetened drinks," which include soda, sweetened fruit drinks and other sugared beverages. Over the two-year period, 57% of the children surveyed increased their consumption of sweetened beverage, with one-quarter of these children drinking more than one extra serving daily. Children who increased their drink consumption also experienced a rise in body mass index, and 9.3% of the children surveyed became obese over the course of the two years (Ludwig et al., Lancet, 2/17). Conversely, diet soda "made the children less likely to become obese." Pure fruit juice was also studied, but consumption "did not account" for an increase in obesity, the study said (AP/Nando Times, 2/15). The researchers concluded, "Although the cause of this apparent obesity epidemic is likely to be multifactorial, our findings suggest that sugar-sweetened drink consumption could be an important contributory factor" (Lancet, 2/16).
Health experts called the findings "enormously important," as they reinforce the long-standing belief that sweetened drinks are "contributing to the rising obesity epidemic among children," the AP/Detroit News reports. Dr. David Ludwig, lead study author, said that while the study "doesn't tell us the importance of soft drinks relative to the other factors that contribute to obesity," it does "suggest that people aren't compensating" for the extra calories consumed through soda and sweetened juices (Ross, AP/Detroit News, 2/16). Dr. Philip James, chair of the International Obesity Task Force, added that sugar in drinks "can be deceptive because the beverages are less filling than food," and do not deter people from eating less-calorific meals (AP/Nando Times, 2/16). Soft drinks enjoy great popularity among adolescents, with 65% of girls and 74% of boys consuming at least one soft drink per day, according to USDA figures. Per capita soft drink consumption has increased by almost 500% over the past 50 years (Lancet, 2/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.