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Sugary Soft Drinks Linked to Adolescent Overweight



I've reported on several reasons to avoid sugared soft drinks, including:

  • Calories from sweetened liquids, whether from soda or fruit juices, don't seem to be perceived by the body as food in the same way that solid calories are perceived as food (News Bite, 11/7/07)
  • On average, a single can of soda, diet or sugared, per day increases the risk of obesity by 41% (News Bite, 4/17/07)
  • Those who drink the most sugared soda per day have a 67% greater chance of type 2 diabetes than those who drink the least sugared soda (News Bite, 5/23/07), and
  • Drinking more than 2.5 sugar-sweetened drinks per day increases your risk of death from cardiovascular disease (News Bite, 05/12/06)

Glass of SodaA study in Germany looked at the types of beverages that children between the ages of 9 and 18 consumed and correlated that amount with the change in their Body Mass Index between the two ages (Brit J Nutr 2008; 99:1370-1379).

It is important to note that in Germany, sugared carbonated soft drinks contain sucrose to sweeten them, as opposed to sugared carbonated soft drinks in the United States, which usually contain high fructose corn syrup. Girls in the US also drink a lot more of those carbonated soft drinks than fruit juices, while in Germany this is reversed. (The German scientists theorize that girls in Germany drink more fruit juice because it is more "socially acceptable" than sugared soft drinks.)

Despite the differences, researchers found that the more sugared soft drinks a child drank, regardless of whether that soft drink was a carbonated soda or a fruit juice, the more quickly their Body Mass Index rose as they grew. At the beginning of the study, at age 9, only 4% of boys were overweight and 8.4% of girls, while at the end of the study, at 18 years of age, 6.4% of boys were overweight and 5% of girls were overweight. That's great news until you realize that the number of obese boys increased from 0 to almost 1% and the number of obese girls increased from 1.7% to 5.9%!

What this means for you

The evidence is piling up against sweetened liquids, even if they are "diet" and even if they seem to be better for you by virtue of being fruit juice. Instead, drink water. Can't bring yourself to drink water? Tea and coffee, whether iced or hot and unsweetened, taste great and also contain high amounts of antioxidants.

First posted: May 21, 2008