Sodas and Obesity

Sodas and Obesity

Sugars and corn sweeteners account for a large fraction of the calories in many supermarket foods, and virtually all the calories in drinks - soft, sports, and juice - come from added sugars.

In a trend that correlates closely with rising rates of obesity, daily per capita consumption of sweetened beverages has grown by about 200 calories since the early 1980s. Although common sense suggests that this increase might have something to do with weight gain, beverage makers argue that studies cannot prove that sugary drinks alone - independent of calories or other foods in the diet - boost the risk of obesity.  The evidence, they say correctly, is circumstantial.  But pediatricians often see obese children in their practices who consume more than 1,000 calories a day from sweetened drinks

alone, and several studies indicate that children who habitually consume sugary beverages take in more calories and weigh more than those who do not. 

Nevertheless, the effects of sweetened drinks on obesity continue to be subject to interpretation.  In 2006, for example, a systematic review funded by independent sources found sweetened drinks promoted obesity in both children and adults.  But a review that same year sponsored in part by a beverage trade association concluded that soft drinks have no special role in obesity. 

The industry-funded researchers criticized existing studies as being short-term and inconclusive and pointed to studies finding that people lose weight when they substitute sweetened drinks for their usual meals.

These differences imply the need to scrutinize food industry sponsorship of research itself.  Although many researchers are offended by suggestions that funding support might affect the way they design or interpret studies, systematic analyses say otherwise. In 2007, investigators classified studies of the effects of sweetened and other beverages on health according to who had sponsored them.  Industry-supported studies were more likely to yield results favorable to the sponsor than this funded by independent sources.

Even though scientists may not be able to prove that sweetened drinks cause  obesity, it makes sense for anyone interested in losing weight to consume less of them.

Source: Food Inc. 

Susan Arruda