Soft Drinks May Play Greater Role in Childhood Obesity than Previously Indicated, According to New Research

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Research published in September by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that sodas and other high-calorie, sweetened drinks may play a greater role in childhood obesity than previous studies have indicated.

The findings stem from three separate studies analyzing the soda consumption habits of overweight young people. In one clinical study, 224 subjects were placed in randomly assigned groups, with one group eliminating high-calorie sodas from their diets for a year. After the experiment concluded, researchers found that those who abstained from sugary beverages weighed four pounds less than those who did not abstain. 

An additional study at Harvard analyzed thousands of subjects with genetic predispositions to obesity, finding that those who did not consume high-calorie soft drinks were less likely to become obese than subjects that regularly consumed high-calorie beverages. According to the study, subjects that drank sugary beverages on a daily basis were five times likelier to become obese than those that avoided drinks with high-calorie content.

Harvard researchers told The Boston Globe that sugary drinks may not only increase the likelihood of obesity for individuals with genetic predispositions, but might even “exaggerate” certain genetic effects, perhaps increasing one’s cravings for such beverages.

Although the study linked short-term weight loss with the elimination of soda from one’s diet, the researchers ultimately concluded that this may not be a panacea for the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. 

“Among overweight and obese adolescents, the increase in BMI was smaller in the experimental group than in the control group after a one-year intervention designed to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, but not at the two year follow-up,” the report states.