Sugary Drinks Don't Add To Childhood Obesity
June 15, 2012

Sugary Drinks Don’t Add To Childhood Obesity

Connie K. Ho for

A new study by Canadian researchers finds that children and youth who consume sugary drinks do not have any higher risk at becoming obese when compared to their peers who drink healthy beverages.

The project was conducted by looking at the relationship between beverage consumption of Canadian children between the ages of two and 18 as well as their risk of obesity. The children were measured by their height and weight to track any changes. The findings showed that only boys between the ages of six and 11 were at risk of developing obesity. The report will later be published in the October issue of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism of the National Research Council of Canada Research Press.

"We found sweetened drinks to be dominant beverages during childhood, but saw no consistent association between beverage intake patterns and overweight and obesity," explained lead author Susan J. Whiting in a prepared statement. "Food and beverage habits are formed early in life and are often maintained into adulthood. Overconsumption of sweetened beverages may put some children at increased risk for overweight and obesity. Indeed, boys aged 6-11 years who consumed mostly soft drinks were shown to be at increased risk for overweight and obesity as compared with those who drank a more moderate beverage pattern."

The authors utilized cluster analysis that examined sociodemographics, ethnicity, household income, and food security. They intersected these clusters with beverage intake patterns among Canadian children, who represented 98% of the Canadian population. The data was divided into a variety of age and gender groups to help the researchers better understand beverage preferences. Beverages with less than 100% fruit juice, lemonades, soft drinks, and sweetened coffees or teas were categorized based on information from Canada´s Food Guide.

“Using population-based intake data for Canadian children, we find only modest evidence for an effect of excess sugar-sweetened beverage intake, specifically soft drinks, on risk of overweight—obesity,” wrote the authors in the report.

With the results, the scientists found that the main factors of childhood obesity in Canadian children were based off of ethnicity, household food security, and household income.

“This may be due to other factors related to overweight and obesity that we were unable to control for or due to the cross-sectional nature of our study,” explained the authors in the paper. “Food and beverage habits are formed early in life, and are often maintained into adulthood. A dominant pattern of sweetened beverage consumption may put some children at increased risk for overweight and obesity.”

The investigators noted a few limitations in the study, including information that was based on temporality of beverage consumption and one day of beverage data. They believe that more research needs to be done on the relationship between beverage intake patterns of those who are overweight and obese. These types of experiments will help people have a better understanding and knowledge of Canadian children´s beverage intake patterns. This particular study was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.