In one of the new trials, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital randomly assigned 224 overweight or obese teenagers to receive home deliveries of bottled water and diet drinks for one year.
In the second trial, researchers at VU University Amsterdam randomly assigned 641 normal-weight schoolchildren ages 4 to 11 to drink eight ounces of a 104-calorie sugar-sweetened or noncaloric sugar-free fruit-flavored drink every day from identical cans.
Over 18 months, children in the sugar-free group gained 13.9 pounds on average, while those drinking the sugar-added version gained 16.2 pounds.
“So many things are driving obesity that changing any one thing is not going to reverse the problem, but these studies suggest soda is a pretty darn good place to start,” said Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale.
Officials with the American Beverage Association, the trade association for makers of nonalcoholic beverages, criticized the studies, saying that obesity is not caused by a single food or beverage and that sugar-sweetened beverages make up an estimated 7 percent of the calories in a typical American diet.
Ludwig, the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s and the study’s senior author, said the finding only underscored the need for public policy changes.
Hispanic children responded more strongly than non-Hispanics to the switch to sugar-free beverages, gaining less than a pound on average by the end of the second year in the Boston trial, while Hispanics in the comparison group gained more than 20 pounds on average.
The Dutch study was double-blinded, meaning neither the researchers nor the children knew whether they were given sugar-sweetened or sugar-free drinks.
But the children who were assigned to drink the sugar-free beverages not only gained less weight over the course of the 18-month study, they also had less body fat and thinner skin folds.
Read Full Article: Avoiding Sugared Drinks Limits Weight Gain in Two Studies