Reducing Intake of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Reduces Weight Gain in Children

Summary and Comment |
September 26, 2012

Reducing Intake of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Reduces Weight Gain in Children

  1. F. Bruder Stapleton, MD

Interventions aimed at replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with sugar-free drinks reduced weight gain in normal-weight and obese or overweight children and adolescents.

  1. F. Bruder Stapleton, MD

Sugar-sweetened beverages are a substantial source of caloric intake in children. Two randomized studies examined the effect of reducing sugar-sweetened beverages on weight gain in children and adolescents.

In the first study, researchers randomized 641 normal-weight Dutch schoolchildren (age range, 4 years 10 months to 11 years 11 months) who regularly drank sugary drinks to receive one can (8 ounces) per day of either a sugar-sweetened, noncarbonated beverage (104 kcal/day) or a similar-tasting, noncaloric, artificially sweetened beverage for 18 months. At the end of the study, children in the sugar-free group gained significantly less weight and body fat than those in the sugar group (mean weight gain, 6.35 kg vs. 7.37 kg).

In the second study, researchers in Boston randomized 224 overweight and obese adolescents who regularly consumed sugar-sweetened drinks to receive home delivery of bottled water and diet beverages every 2 weeks for 1 year, along with monthly motivational telephone calls with parents and three check-in visits. The intervention group also received written messages by mail with instructions to drink the delivered beverages and not drink sugar-sweetened drinks. The control group received supermarket gift cards. At 1 year, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages in the intervention group declined to nearly zero and was significantly less than in the control group. Gains in body-mass index (BMI) were significantly smaller in the intervention group at 1 year but not at 2 years. However, the intervention resulted in significantly smaller gains in BMI and body weight at both 1 and 2 years among Hispanic adolescents.

Comment

Although the results of these two studies are not surprising, they demonstrate that reducing intake of sugar-sweetened beverages can reduce weight gain in normal-weight and obese or overweight children and adolescents. Furthermore, in the adolescent intervention trial, providing education and healthier alternative beverages for 1 year had continued dietary effects at 2 years in some adolescents.

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