Evidence linking lower weight with fewer sugary drinks not strong: Review

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sugary drinks, Obesity, Body mass index

There is not enough evidence to suggest that cutting consumption of sugary drinks would reduce obesity rates, according to a new research review published in Obesity Reviews.

The researchers, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, conducted a meta-analysis of human studies that examined the effect of nutritively sweetened beverages (NSBs) on body mass index (BMI).

They found 12 relevant studies, half of which showed that subjects gained weight when sugary drinks were added to their diets, and half of which attempted to reduce sugary drinks. The latter studies consistently showed no effect on BMI, the researchers found.

They wrote: “The current evidence does not demonstrate conclusively that NSB consumption has uniquely contributed to obesity or that reducing NSB consumption will reduce BMI levels in general.”

Three of the study’s four authors noted conflicts of interest in their review, including “grants, honoraria, donations and consulting fees from numerous food, beverage, pharmaceutical companies, and other commercial and non-profit entities with interests in obesity.”

Policymakers under pressure

Despite writing that it is difficult to discern the effects of NSB consumption on obesity, the researchers said that policymakers are now under pressure to take action to deal with obesity in the United States.

“Policymakers need to act on the pressing problem of overweight and obesity, which regrettably means that decisions must now be made on imperfect knowledge,”​ they wrote.

One idea that policymakers have repeatedly raised is that of taxing sugary soft drinks as a way to tackle obesity, and debate about whether such a strategy would work is ongoing. In some states, lawmakers have dropped this aspect of the argument, and suggested instead that soda taxes could be used to address budget deficits.

Nevertheless, the researchers behind this latest review said that observational studies have been shown to have little merit, and recommended that randomized controlled trials with overweight individuals should be conducted “for whom there is suggestive evidence of effect.”

Source: Obesity Reviews

doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2010.00755.x

“Nutritively sweetened beverage consumption and body weight: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized experiments”

Authors: R. D. Mattes, J. M. Shikany, K. A. Kaiser and D. B. Allison

Related topics: The obesity problem, R&D

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4 comments

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Sugary beverages and counseling obese people

Posted by Nik,

I agree that sugary beverages definitely add to caloric intake and it's not surprising that overweight or obese folks tend to consume them. I also agree that they have no healthful nutritional value and so should be consumed in moderation if at all. However, I also know of many average weight people that also consume them, and so until you counsel average weight people you can't determine the sugary beverages to be the sole culprit of being overweight.

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sugary drinks

Posted by Cindy Mense MS RD,

I counseled obese poor folks for 15 years and was never surprised when a morbidly obese person reported being "addicted to Pepsi". These drinks replace calories that could be used for healthy choices. Just think how many fresh strawberries a person could eat for the calories in a 24 oz soda!!!

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Oh Stop It!

Posted by Edith John,

People who are obese are that way for two reasons: Either they have a genetic disposition to the disorder; or they consume more than they burn off. That's the simple truth.
And the solution lies in learning how to best manage ones daily calorie intake while embracing more physical activity. A salad and a walk will do wonders for the body. This obsession to demonize foods and beverages or ingredients like sugar and salt is just silly.

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