In Brief: Sugary Sodas, Weight and Cancer Prevention
Two new well-controlled studies strengthen the link between sugary drinks leading to weight gain and obesity. The research adds powerful new evidence to AICR’s recommendation that people should avoid drinking sugary beverages to reduce cancer risk because it may lead to excess body fat. Obesity links to increased risk of seven types of cancers.
The studies were relatively long and experimental: In contrast, the vast majority of long-term studies on sugary beverages – and diet in general – are observational, meaning that researchers look at any link between what participants drink and their weight. These experimental studies both focused on how sugary beverages affect the weight of children and adolescents.
One study took place over two-years and included 224 overweight and obese adolescents who drank almost two sugary beverages a day. About half of the teens were asked to drink water, diet sodas, or other calorie-free beverages instead of their normal sugary drink. The other half continued to drink their sugary beverages as normal. For the first year, researchers delivered the calorie-free drinks to the intervention teens’ homes every couple weeks and regularly checked-in with the family. The other group received $50 grocery store gift cards.
After one year, the adolescents in the intervention group were drinking almost no sugary beverages and they had a lower BMI compared to the control group. After the second year – in which there were no instructions or drinks given – there was no difference in BMIs between the two groups. But the intervention teens still reported consuming fewer calories and sugar.
The second study, conducted in the Netherlands, provided 641 children with either a can of a sugary-104 calorie drink or a sugar-free version for them every day. The children were ages 5 to 11 and mostly a healthy weight.
After one and a half years, almost 500 children completed the study. The children who drank the sugar-free beverage gained less weight and fat than those in the sugary groups. Because research suggests that overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, findings ways to prevent weight gain for children and teens is important.
- Janne C. de Ruyter, M.Sc., Margreet R. Olthof, Ph.D., Jacob C. Seidell, Ph.D., and Martijn B. Katan, Ph.D. “A Trial of Sugar-free or Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Body Weight in Children.” New England Journal of Medicine. September 21, 2012.
- Cara B. Ebbeling, Ph.D., Henry A. Feldman, Ph.D., Virginia R. Chomitz, Ph.D., Tracy A. Antonelli, M.P.H., Steven L. Gortmaker, Ph.D., Stavroula K. Osganian, M.D., Sc.D., and David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D. “A Randomized Trial of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Adolescent Body Weight.” New England Journal of Medicine. September 21, 2012.