High consumption of soft drinks sweetened with sugar has been viewed as a cause of obesity. However, data from a longitudinal UK study, does not support this association.
Researchers from Cambridge used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to examine the relationship between a high intake of sweetened soft drinks and body fat, measured by a very accurate method called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). The sample of children comprised 521 5-year olds and 682 7-year olds who had supplied a 3-day diet diary.
Sweetened soft drinks represented 15% of beverage consumption by volume, and accounted for only 3% of total daily energy intake, on average. To explore whether there was a relationship between sweetened drinks and body fat, the researchers used a statistical technique, called linear modelling, which can account for other confounding variables, such as dietary fat intake or physical activity. The results showed no significant association between body fat and sweetened drinks consumption. Interestingly, children with a high intake of low calorie and sugar-free drinks tended to be fatter than children with a low intake of these beverages. However, this is likely to be due to parents of overweight children offering low sugar drinks in the belief that this will promote weight control.
For more information, see
Johnson L et al (2007). Is sugar-sweetened beverage consumption associated with increased fatness in children? Nutrition, Vol 23, pages 557-563.
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