Sugary Sodas Lead To An Increased Risk Of Obesity
September 24, 2012

Sugary Sodas Lead To An Increased Risk Of Obesity

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new study has confirmed a link between sugary sodas, and genetic susceptibility to high body mass index (BMI) and increased risk of obesity.

The team wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that their findings reinforce the view that environmental and genetic factors shape obesity risk.

"Our study for the first time provides reproducible evidence from three prospective cohorts to show genetic and dietary factors–sugar-sweetened beverages–may mutually influence their effects on body weight and obesity risk," Lu Qi, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and senior author of the study, said in a press release.

Consuming sugary drinks in the past three decades has increased worldwide, and there has been little research on whether environmental factors like drinking these drinks can influence genetic predisposition.

For the study, the team used data from 121,700 women in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS), 51,529 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), and 25,000 in the Women's Genome Health Study (WGHS).

All of the participants in the research had completed food-frequency questionnaires detailing their food and drink consumption.

The team analyzed data from 6,934 women from NHS, 4,423 men from HPFS, and 21,740 women from WGHS who were of European ancestry.

Participants were divided into four groups depending on how many sugar drinks they consumed. The groups were broken up into those who consumed less than one serving of a sugar beverage a month, between one to four servings per month, between 2 to six servings per week, and one or more servings per day.

The results showed that the genetic effects of BMI and obesity risk among those who drank one or more sugary drinks per day were twice as large as those who consumed less than one per month. The findings suggest that regular consumption of sugary beverages may amplify the genetic risk of obesity.

The team also found that individuals with greater genetic predisposition to obesity appear to be more susceptible to harmful effects of sugary drinks on BMI.

"SSBs are one of the driving forces behind the obesity epidemic," Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH and a coauthor of this study, said in a press release. "The implication of our study is that the genetic effects of obesity can be offset by healthier food and beverage choices."

Qi said the findings could motivate other researchers to study the interactions between genomic variation and environmental factors that play a role in human health.

Another study published in the same journal also looked into the association of sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity focused on adolescents.

This study found that adolescents who received deliveries of non-caloric beverages for one year gained an average of four fewer pounds than their peers who continued to drink sugar-sweetened drinks.

The American Beverage Association spoke out in regards to the findings presented in the journal.

"We know, and science supports, that obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverage," said the American Beverage Association in a statement. "Studies and opinion pieces that focus solely on sugar-sweetened beverages, or any other single source of calories, do nothing meaningful to help address this serious issue."