Sugary drinks – culprits in obesity
In one study, researchers randomly assigned 224 overweight or obese high schoolers in the Boston area to receive shipments every two weeks of either the sugary drinks they usually consumed or sugar-free alternatives, including bottled water. No efforts were made to change the youngsters’ exercise habits or give nutrition advice, and the kids knew what type of beverages they were getting.
After one year, the sugar-free group weighed more than 4 pounds less on average than those who kept drinking sugary beverages.
“I know of no other single food product whose elimination can produce this degree of weight change,” said the study’s leader, Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health.
The weight difference between the two groups narrowed to 2 pounds in the second year of the study, when drinks were no longer being provided. That showed at least some lasting beneficial effect on kids’ habits. The study was funded mostly by government grants.
A second study involved 641 normal-weight children ages 4 to 12 in the Netherlands who regularly drank sugar-sweetened beverages. They were randomly assigned to get either a sugary drink or a sugar-free one during morning break at their schools, and were not told what kind they were given.
After 18 months, the sugary-drink group weighed 2 pounds more on average than the other group.
The studies “provide strong impetus” for policies urged by the Institute of Medicine, the American Heart Association and others to limit sugary drink consumption, Dr. Sonia Caprino of the Yale School of Medicine wrote in an editorial in the journal.
The American Beverage Association disagreed.
“Obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverage,” it said 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.”
These days, there are more “health drinks” lining supermarket shelves than ever before. But don’t start guzzling just yet! Although these concoctions promise a bevy of vitamins, energy or other “super” ingredients, there’s typically a catch. Read on for the scoop on popular “health” beverages.
|The Drink||The Buzz||The Reality|
|Energy Drinks||Usually loaded with sugar and caffeine, these beverages will power you through the day (or night).||These may cause insomnia, nervousness, irritability, stomach upset and even heart palpitations. Get your caffeine fix from coffee or tea instead.|
|Vitamin-Enhanced Water||The promise: to give you more energy, improve your memory or help you boost your immune system.||They’re predominantly sugar water with some vitamins, minerals and flavorings thrown in. If you suspect your diet is lacking, skip these drinks and take a multivitamin.|
|“Super Fruit” Drinks||Juice made from exotic fruits like acai and goji berry are packed with antioxidants and other nutrients that will help fight joint pain, heart disease, cancer and more.||Yes, they have antioxidants—but so do more common juices like orange and grape! Plus, many of these drinks have added sugar or corn syrup. Only choose ones that contain 100% fruit juice and drink them in moderation.|
|Bottled Iced Tea||It’s packed with disease-fighting antioxidants, making it a healthier pick than soda.||Tea drinkers—especially green tea drinkers—may have a lower risk of stroke, memory problems and certain cancers, probably thanks to the antioxidants. But antioxidants break down over time, so freshly made tea is better. Bottled teas are often also loaded with calories. My advice: Brew your own tea.|
|Diet Drinks||Sodas and tea made with artificial sweeteners like aspartame (Equal Classic or NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda) are popular because they usually have no or a very small amount of calories.||Though there’s nothing wrong with having an artificially drink on occasion—though, if you do have one, opt for one sweetened with a natural sweetener, like Truvia or steve—diet drinks are not a fool-proof dieting choice, as they may actually remind your taste buds of sugar, which could intensify your cravings and cause you to eat more sweet foods or drinks.|