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Studies offer good reasons to quit soda

  • McClatchy Newspapers
  • Published Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, at 9:27 p.m.

Soda has been highlighted in the news recently, with the recent New York City ban on soft drinks over 16 ounces.

For those of you who still drink soda, some recent studies may be of interest, even if you don’t live in New York. Three studies published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine suggest that soda is heavily linked to the nation’s obesity epidemic.

The first study in the Journal was the DRINK (Double-Blind Randomized Intervention in Kids), which gave 641 children ages about 5 to 12 and with a healthy body mass index one 8-ounce noncarbonated drink per day, blinded to be sweetened artificially or with sugar. At the end of 18 months, the sugar-free kids gained less body fat, 2.2 pounds less weight, and 0.36 units less BMI than the kids drinking sugared beverages.

In the second study in the Journal, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital gave zero-calorie drinks to 110 obese 15-year-olds, counseled them not to drink sugary beverages and offered other support.

After a year the teens had cut their intake of sugary drinks from almost two a day to zero, and cut their daily calorie intake by over 400 calories. They had gained an average of 3.5 pounds. In comparison, 114 teens who continued to consume sugar-sweetened beverages gained 7.7 pounds on average and 10 times the BMI units.

In the third study, genetics and sugared beverages were studied. Scientists at Harvard School of Public Health looked at 33,097 people from long-term ongoing health studies, such as the Nurses’ Health Study, identifying how many sugary drinks they consume and whether they have any of the obesity-linked genes. For those who had one of the 32 obesity-linked genes, the likelihood of becoming obese was twice as large among people who drank one or more sugary drinks per day as among those who had less than one a month.

This suggests sugared beverages trigger obesity in those who are genetically predisposed to obesity.

So, is it time to drop all sugared beverages and switch to water? We certainly hope you do so. This small change in our liquid habits can change the face of obesity in the United States, and save tens of billions of health care dollars in years to come.

Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden are medical directors of Sutter Downtown Integrative Medicine program in Sacramento, Calif.

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