Switch to diet soda may help teens shed pounds
By Megan Rauscher
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A new study shows that
adolescents who regularly consume sugar-sweetened soda have no
trouble switching to sugar-free soda if provided the
opportunity — and making the switch may lead to weight loss,
especially among heavier teens.
The role of sugar-sweetened beverages in promoting obesity
is hotly debated. With this study, “we think there now is a
very strong case that sugar-sweetened beverages are playing a
strong role in weight gain among adolescents,” Dr. David S.
Ludwig from Children’s Hospital Boston noted in an interview
with Reuters Health.
The findings also provide additional support for the
American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations to limit intake
of sugar-sweetened beverages, Ludwig and colleagues note in the
The study involved 103 high school students who regularly
drink sugar-sweetened beverages. For 25 weeks, 53 of the teens
in the intervention group were provided with a variety of
alternative beverages that did not contain sugar such as
bottled water and diet beverages including soft drinks, iced
teas, lemonades and punches. The beverages were delivered right
to the teen’s homes. The other 50 “control” teens received no
All of the teenagers completed the study. Consumption of
sugar-sweetened beverages fell by 82 percent in the
intervention group but did not change in the control group.
“With this simple intervention, we could basically
eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet,” Ludwig
The teens who substituted sugar-packed drinks for diet
drinks lost weight, especially the ones who were overweight to
start. According to Ludwig, “in the heaviest third, body weight
decreased significantly and substantially. The effect
approached 1 pound per month.”
“If that persisted, it could play a very large role in
either excessive weight gain if drinking sugar-sweetened
beverages or markedly to weight loss if drinking sugar-free
beverages,” he added.
Summing up, Ludwig concluded that “this very simple
intervention is feasible and not only changed behavior but also
influenced body weight.”
SOURCE: Pediatrics, March 2006.