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Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Responsible for Obesity Epidemic?

By Daniel H. Rasolt

Posted: Thursday, April 02, 2009

(Defeat Diabetes® News) -- While diets often focus of solid caloric intake, a recent study has shown that decreasing intake of liquid calories may in fact be more effective in creating weight loss. Specifically, a reduction in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption could help prevent obesity and associated conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.
While both solid and liquid calories are known to have an effect on weight levels, most nutritional advice, including the majority of diets, focus on solid food intake. Liquid calories, especially those that come from sugar-sweetened beverages, appear to have a profound effect on both weight levels and subsequent dangerous health conditions. According to the current study, increases in the consumption of liquid calories in the United States, has directly paralleled the rise in obesity levels. While other nutritional and lifestyle choices over the past decades are also clearly responsible for obesity having an approximately 30% prevalence in the United States, such as fast foods and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, the following research indicates that sweetened beverages may play a predominant role in this epidemic.
810 individuals between 25-79 years of age, participated in the 18-month study. Daily accounts of diets were taken, and at six and 18 months, each participant's weight was taken. Concerning their liquid caloric intake, participants were asked to identify how much of each of the following categories they had consumed. The first category, sugar-sweetened beverages, included "regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, fruit punch, or high-calorie beverages sweetened with sugar." The second category, diet drinks, included artificially sweetened beverages, such as diet sodas. Milk beverages were the third categorical source for liquid calories, and 100% juice, sweetened and unsweetened coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages, made up the final categories.
Of the above sources of liquid calories, sugar-sweetened beverages accounted for the highest caloric consumption (37%). Says lead author Dr. Liwei Chen, "among beverages, sugar-sweetened beverages was the only beverage type significantly associated with weight change at both the 6- and 18-month follow up periods." All other categories had little to no effect on weight, when either consumption was increased or decreased."
Compared to solid caloric intake, it was observed that a reduction in liquid calories was the more effective form of weight loss, especially in terms of rapid effectiveness. Says co-author Dr. Benjamin Caballero, "both liquid and solid calories were associated with weight change, however, only a reduction in liquid calorie intake was shown to significantly affect weight loss during the 6-month follow up." More specifically, Dr. Caballero goes on to say that "a reduction in liquid calorie intake was associated with a weight loss of 0.25 kg at 6 months and 0.24 kg at 18 months. Among sugar-sweetened beverages, a reduction of 1 serving was associated with a weight loss of 0.5 kg at 6 months and 0.7 kg at 18 months.  Of the seven types of beverages examined, sugar-sweetened beverages were the only beverages significantly associated with weight change.”
Obesity has strong connections to heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and many other potentially fatal conditions. While proper total nutrition, which includes both solid and liquid consumption, and sufficient exercise levels, are all recommended to prevent obesity and sustain healthy lives, the above study gives credence to more attention being paid to reducing liquid caloric intake. Concludes Dr. Chen, "our study supports policy recommendations and public health efforts to reduce intakes of liquid calories, particularly from sugar-sweetened beverages, in the general population."

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Chen, Liwei. Caballero, Benjamin. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health news release. April 2009.

Daniel H. Rasolt writes for Defeat Diabetes® News. Read more of his original content articles.

Copyright © 2009 Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

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