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Sugary drinks linked to childhood obesity and heart risk

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 05-Oct-2010

Related topics: R&D, The obesity problem

Reducing consumption of sugary drinks should be a critical dietary approach to reducing cardiovascular risk in children, claims a commentary published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The article, by Rae-Ellen Kavey, professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics, Division of Cardiology, draws attention to previous research – as well as research published in the same journal – that suggests children gain a large proportion of their calories from sugar-sweetened beverages.

She underlines that there is consistent agreement that imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure is the primary cause of weight gain. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a third of American children are overweight or obese.

But although children may gain a large fraction of their energy from sugar-sweetened beverages, Kavey wrote that high sugar consumption has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease whether or not a person is obese.

"High added sugar consumption which occurs most commonly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with a constellation of cardiovascular risk factors, both independently, and through the development of obesity,” Kavey wrote. “Multiple studies have shown that presence of these risk factors in childhood is associated with accelerated atherosclerosis and early cardiovascular disease.”

She added that randomized trials of nutritionist-guided interventions have shown that dietary change is possible, and such change has been associated with important cardiovascular benefits.

“This combined body of evidence suggests that reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages should be considered a critical dietary approach to reducing cardiovascular risk in childhood," Kavey wrote.

In particular, Kavey pointed to studies that have examined the possible role of fructose – which is most commonly consumed combined with glucose in sucrose (sugar) and high fructose corn syrup – in the development of cardiovascular disease through a variety of mechanisms.

“By promoting the development of obesity and by metabolic effects on lipids, blood pressure, insulin resistance, and inflammation, high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with multiple risk factors for accelerated atherosclerosis and subsequent evidence for cardiovascular disease,” she wrote.

Source: Journal of the American Dietetic Association

October 2010, Vol. 110, No. 10, pp. 1456-1460

“How Sweet It Is: Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Risk in Childhood”

Author: Rae-Ellen Kavey