Nav: Home

Study suggests no direct link between drinking sugar sweetened drinks and higher energy consumption or BMI in children

April 29, 2019

A nationally representative UK survey of children (aged 4-10 years old) has found no strong/direct link between drinking sugar sweetened beverages and greater energy consumption or higher BMI.

The study, being presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, UK (28 April-1 May), has led the authors to question whether the so called "sugar tax" will be an effective way to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic [1].

"In this representative sample of UK children, high intake of added sugars was not directly correlated with high energy consumption. Therefore, relying on a single-nutrient approach to tackling childhood obesity in the form of a soft drink tax, might not be the most effective tactic", says Ola Anabtawi from the University of Nottingham in the UK who led the research.

"What's more, our findings indicate that drinking sugar sweetened beverages is not a behaviour particular to children with a higher body weight. On the contrary, framing sugar reduction in tackling obesity might reinforce negative stereotypes around 'unhealthy dieting'. Instead, policies should focus on those children whose consumption of sugar sweetened drinks substantially increases their total added sugar intake in combination with other public health interventions."

Current estimates of UK non-milk extrinsic sugar (NMES) intake--also referred to as "added sugars" and includes sugar naturally present in fruit as well as 50% of the fruit sugars from dried, stewed, or canned fruit--show that average intakes are three times higher than the new 5% maximum recommended level in school-aged children and teenagers (14.7% to 15.6% of energy intake) [2].

Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs), including carbonated soft drinks, fruit drinks, and energy drinks, are the largest contributor of sugar in children's diets. Children aged 11 to 18 years drink, on average around 336ml per day (roughly equivalent to one can of a sugary drink).

Alongside changes in dietary quality and levels of physical activity, sugar sweetened drink consumption has been suggested as influencing the trends in weight gain seen in children in the UK--this led to the introduction of a Soft Drinks Industry Levy in April 2018. It has been mandated as part of the Childhood Obesity Plan and is expected to result in around an 8.5% reduction in the rates of children and adolescents who are obese [3].To provide more evidence on the potential impacts of action on SSBs, Anabtawi and colleagues examined the characteristics of children in the UK who drink, and do not drink, SSBs, and the impact of overall energy intake.

.The researchers analysed data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling programme between 2008 and 2016 from a group of 1298 children aged 4-10 years. The nationally representative survey gathers information annually from food diaries in which children or their parents record their dietary intake and SSB consumption over a 4-day period. The survey also collected measurements of weight and height which were used to calculate the body mass index (BMI) of the children. In total, 61% (790/1298) of children were classified as sweetened drink consumers.

Analysis of the data showed that overall consumption of added sugars (NMES) from food and drink was higher than recommended (5% of energy intake) in more than three quarters of children (78%; 1017/1298).

Twice as many drinkers of SSBs (68%; 688/1071) consumed more than the recommended intake of added sugars from food and drink as non-drinkers (32%; 329/1017).

However, 78% of children (617/790) who were drinkers of SSBs did not exceed their total energy requirements for their age. The study also did not find any significant differences between the groups of drinkers and non-drinkers in terms of age, gender, or BMI.

"Simplistic interventions that aim to tackle a particular behaviour, or address a specific bodyweight category, without considering other health determinants and outcomes, are unlikely to succeed in reducing childhood obesity. Delving deeper into the relationship between behaviours, weight, and other outcomes would increase the effectiveness of public health interventions and reduce the occurrence of unintended consequences such as food guilt and restricted eating", says Anabtawi.

The authors acknowledge that their findings are limited by the use of a cross sectional design that is acquired from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling programme until the year of 2016. They point to several limitations, including that the study did not examine potentially confounding factors such as physical activity, that may have influenced the results.

European Association for the Study of Obesity

Related Obesity Articles:

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.
Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).
How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.
Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?
Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.
Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.
Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.
Systematic review shows risk of a child developing overweight or obesity is more than trebled by maternal obesity prior to pregnancy
New research presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, Scotland (April 28- May 1) reveals that the risk of a child becoming overweight or obese is more than trebled by maternal obesity prior to getting pregnant.
Eating later in the day may be associated with obesity
Eating later in the day may contribute to weight gain, according to a new study to be presented Saturday at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in New Orleans, La.
How obesity affects vitamin D metabolism
A new Journal of Bone and Mineral Research study confirms that vitamin D supplementation is less effective in the presence of obesity, and it uncovers a biological mechanism to explain this observation.
More Obesity News and Obesity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at